With less resources and hours provided to animal shelters and many animals still roaming the streets, there is an additional need for loving homes for pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine life, which isolates Americans all over the country, suddenly generates lots of empty free time inside the house. Pets fill that time with love and entertainment, yet not everyone can commit to owning a pet long term. This is where fostering comes in, a great system that provides relief to local animal shelters while supplying pets and people alike with companionship and love.
When a person fosters an animal, she or he cares for the animal until that pet is adopted. This includes feeding, walking, taking to veterinarian appointments, aiding in the adoption process and providing love for animals. Fostering helps increase the occupancy of rescues and new animals, which keeps animal shelters from euthanizing dogs and cats.
“There’s also the great satisfaction that, in our case, almost all the cats that we get would have been put to sleep or died. So they get the great satisfaction that they are saving a little life and that they get the satisfaction, not always but oftentimes, to see them go home with their new family,” OC Small Paws, (soon to be OCSP Cat Rescue), President Mary Jacobs said.
OCSP Cat Rescue is a nonprofit, no-kill cat rescue that supplies cats to Petco stores in Orange County, California. Most of the cats at the rescue are from high-kill shelters that euthanize pets to increase housing space for incoming pets. Unlike brick-and-mortar shelters, OCSP Cat Rescue utilizes foster homes, pet stores, and the Caturday Lounge, a local cat cafe, to house their cats. With Petco stores and the Caturday Lounge temporarily closed due to the pandemic, OCSP Cat Rescue relies solely on foster homes and arranged adoption meetings to save kitty lives.
With the COVID-19 outbreak, county shelters, pet stores and other rescue partners are receiving less resources and have no choice but to euthanize more animals. 1.5 million animals out of the 6.5 million animals that enter shelters each year are euthanized according to ASPCA. There are about 3,500 animal shelters in the US and 10,000 rescues and sanctuaries throughout North America, many of which have foster programs, as reported by The Human Society. With the Shelter Animals Count report showing pet intake into shelters down 24% and outtake down 14% compared to March 2019 to March 2020, finding pets a home is more important than ever.
Most foster programs pay for food, veterinary appointments, medicines, and supplies needed to take care of the animal. For instance, OCSP Cat Rescue provides a starter package for all fosters, which includes a litter box with scoop, litter, hard food, soft food and toys.
“I think it is a very low cost, low risk way to get involved in animal welfare. And since it’s not permanent it’s a lot more doable for most people, and you’re still saving a life,” said 19-year-old Meghan Murphy, who has been fostering dogs with Great Dog Rescue New England for 5 years with her family.
The Great Dog Rescue of New England is another non-profit animal rescue that relies on foster homes and temporary quarantine kennels to save dogs. Based out of Andover in Massachusetts, The Great Dog Rescue of New England stays connected to the community through Facebook, local adoption ads and education on dog rescue. Many community members house a dog while the rescue finds a permanent foster family for each dog. The Great Dog Rescue of New England has provided homes for over 13,000 dogs in New England.
As pandemic protection measures continue, Americans spend most of their day in their household. Academics and work now occur over the internet and phone, giving people little reason to change their environment. Pets, however, can help with that, as well as provide other ways to switch up peoples’ quarantine routines. According to the New York Times, many shelters and rescues have seen an increase in foster applicants due to the new lifestyle of Americans during COVID-19, including one shelter in Kansas City that received 250 applicants in four days.
“Well I think for people it gives them a sense of purpose, which is really very necessary for a lot of people if they can’t go to work or school. And for the animals it is really getting them out of high-risk environments, especially when they are counting down on staff and resources that are allotted to the county shelters,” Murphy said.
Besides the satisfaction of saving lives, the benefits of fostering include endless entertainment, a sense of purpose and company during isolation.
“The benefits of fostering are the benefits of having animals around. Just having a cat has been studied to lower blood pressure and calm people down. Just having a little furry thing in the house keeps a lot of people from getting lonely and gives them something to care about and something besides themselves to take care of,” Jacobs said.
“It honestly brings me so much personal satisfaction to see a perfect match between a pet that I’ve known and their new family. It’s a wonderful feeling and I don’t think you really understand it till you’ve done it,” Murphy said.
If you would like to get involved, reach out to your local shelter about their fostering program or ask your local pet store what rescues they work with.
Email Emilee Klein at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @emileekleinn.