When writing my column, I don’t usually refer to Halifax Humane Society specifically. I try to keep the column structured so it applies to all rescues and shelters, but this column is about fostering animals and I don’t want to make assumptions on behalf of other shelters as to their experiences with foster parents and how they are perceived.
Our fosters are extremely important to our organization and to the animals. Over 200 animals were sent to foster homes between March 28 and April 3 due to COVID-19. Helping us clear the shelter was a blessing. Although we had many “failed fosters” (a foster who ends up adopting the animal(s) they are fostering), we also had many fosters who were furloughed from their jobs or were working from home during the stay-at-home order, but once the order was rescinded, they would be returning to work as usual.
Many of these fosters work insane hours and cannot care for an animal full-time. A foster is a temporary guardian for an orphaned animal. If the foster decides to adopt the animal, that is a wonderful outcome, but there is no requirement that they adopt. Taking care of an animal helps the animal, community and our society.
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Now, the reason for me writing about our foster parents is because they tend to get quite a bit of negative comments on our social media pages. When a foster needs to return to work and thus can no longer care for the animal, people complain on social media and write, “how could you take an animal and not keep it? You should be ashamed of yourself!” Or, “the animal will be so disappointed being returned to the shelter when they thought they had a forever home.”
These comments are not fair and, in an effort to shame a foster into adopting the animal, these comments actually dissuade other people from becoming fosters because they don’t want to be criticized in public should they not adopt the animal. All they want to do is to help. The criticizers are not only hurting the feelings of the foster parent, they are hurting the animals as well who deserve to have a foster parent as an option to a shelter kennel.
Again, as stated a foster is a temporary guardian. We need fosters desperately. A dog or cat would very much rather be in a nice home away from the noise of the shelter even if their stay is for just 30 days. During that time, the animal gets to socialize and learn commands. Fostering reveals a great deal about the animals’ behavior. How do they get along with cats and/or dogs? How are they with small children? This information and additional training make the animal much more adoptable if they do return to the shelter. Fostering is a very positive outcome for the animal.
Next time a foster makes a post on social media stating they need to return to work and thus needs to find another foster for the dog they are fostering or it will be returned to the shelter, instead of making rude remarks and blaming the foster for not keeping the dog, maybe the naysayers should step up and offer to take over the fostering. Or, instead of shaming someone into keeping a dog they never had any intention of keeping long term, maybe offer to help find a new foster to take over caring for the dog. Offering solutions is far more positive than offering criticism.
May is National Foster Month. If you are interested in becoming a foster for HHS, contact email@example.com or visit a rescue or shelter near you to volunteer your services.
My grandmother, bless her soul, taught me, “if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Grandma was pretty smart; she also said, “adopt, don’t shop,” or in this case “can’t be an adopter, then you can foster.”
Contact Barry KuKes, community outreach director for the Halifax Humane Society, at firstname.lastname@example.org.