2017-06-08 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Foster homes are crucial to animal rescue. Here are 12 reasons why you should consider fostering a dog or cat for your Town shelter or a private humane organization: 1. Fostering saves lives. Orphan kittens and puppies are too young to survive on their own at a shelter because the staff is not there 24/7. Bottle babies need frequent feedings and constant monitoring until they are weaned and can eat on their own. Many groups and Town shelters (including Hempstead and Babylon) reach out to experienced bottle feeders.

2. Fostering frees up precious space in shelters and kennels. Kitten season lasts from April through November with the influx peaking at the end of summer. Foster programs put kittens in a holding pattern so they don’t all descend on shelters at once. Babylon asks those on the waiting list who’ve found kittens to hold them until they are at least two pounds. This way they can be spay/ neutered and put up for adoption right away rather than grow up at the shelter. Last Hope puts some long timer or special needs dogs in foster care which opens up runs for new dogs in need. At times newer arrivals have been adopted before the foster dogs come back.

Foster homes are essential during kitten season for orphans like Last Hope’s “Toni” rescued from cars running over her in Roosevelt. Foster homes are essential during kitten season for orphans like Last Hope’s “Toni” rescued from cars running over her in Roosevelt. 3. Some organizations do not have physical shelters. These groups depend on foster homes to care for their dogs and cats until permanent homes are found. Most purebred rescues rely on foster homes. I volunteered for League for Animal Protection, South Shore chapter, for 15 years. We never had a shelter. Certain fosters preferred cats and kittens; others took in dogs. Several volunteers specialized in helping disabled dogs. The only alternative is boarding which is very expensive. It is also difficult to show pets to prospective adopters when they are in boarding.

4. Fostering helps rescues learn more about the animals in their care. Since strays come to rescues without histories, it is useful to know how a dog will act in a home before that dog is placed. Is the dog housebroken and house-worthy (not a chewer)? At times we are pleasantly surprised to find out that a dog that had trouble relaxing in a kennel settles right into a home routine. The more we know about a dog; the better we can match him up with an appropriate home.

5. Fostering can aid in socializing homeless animals. Shelter pets come from varying degrees of deprivation. Trapped kittens of feral moms need plenty of handling to enhance their friendliness. Rescue groups take in dogs that endured hoarder nightmares or spent their lives outdoors. Foster care can help accustom them to “normal” people, other pets plus all the sights and sounds that are part of a home routine. Training is reinforced during their foster stay.

6. Fostering relieves the stress of longtime confinement. The behavior of some pets deteriorates after a prolonged shelter stay. Dogs may start pacing or circling, become withdrawn or uncooperative or even refuse return to their kennels. Cats may become ornery or begin over-grooming, causing their fur to fall out. Time out at a foster home gives these pets the opportunity to experience comfortable, nurturing home life which may help remedy confinement-induced issues before they escalate.

7. Foster care is beneficial to pets recovering from surgery or illness. Homeless pets in the midst of medical turmoil do well in foster care especially when showered with TLC. Last Hope often puts dogs into foster homes while they are undergoing heartworm treatment because they must stay calm during the months of recovery.

8. Fostering helps to limit the spread of upper respiratory (URI) and other infections at shelters. Even with vet care, antibiotics and isolation areas, it is difficult to contain contagious infections in crowded shelters. Foster parents without pets of their own are a rarity and priceless. A dog with kennel cough and a cat with a URI can recover in a foster care without infecting others.

9. Short-term foster care is a nice alternative for animal lovers who cannot own a full time pet. A busy, seasonal work schedule or family circumstances may preclude adopting a pet, but sometimes people have months free when they can take a foster pet for a limited period of time.

10. Fostering is a great family activity. Kids experience hands-on compassion. Depending on their age, children can help with bottle-feeding, socialization, feeding, training and nurturing a foster pet’s progress. These lessons of kindness help shape youngsters into caring adults.

11. Fostering can help people heal. After the death of a beloved pet, some are reluctant to adopt again because they don’t want to set themselves up for similar grief in the future. Fostering is a way of easing into loving a pet again. Your intervention is temporary during the period this pet is in the most need. Parting may be bittersweet, but you’ll have comfort thinking about the pet’s future once placed. Plus, you usually have the option of being a “foster failure” and can adopt the pet permanently.

12. Fostering is a wonderful thing to do. It’s rewarding to open your heart and home to pets in need, knowing that you facilitated their journey to their forever home. If fostering is for you, contact a rescue group or shelter to fill out a foster application. Once approved, the group will work with you to find a pet that will fit your situation. All shelters and rescues need foster homes during kitten season and you don’t have to know how to bottle-feed.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Mickey” is a 12-yearold Maltese, surrendered when his owner became ill and could no longer care for him. He is a darling senior looking for love. “Pixie” 7-148 lost her home too when her owner was evicted. She would love a quiet home with someone who will talk to her in a soothing voice.

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