In no way would I demean the role of adopters, but they are one link in the chain to keeping shelter pets from being killed each day in the U.S.
We need people who are willing to foster until the right home can be found.
A pet comes into a shelter. The first link in the chain is the person that brings them in. This person, under most circumstances has made a bad decision in taking the pet in the first place. The commitment to a creature is the lifetime of the pet, not the lifetime of someone’s convenience. As many hard breaking stories of an older person losing a pet because they are relegated to senior care in a facility that does not allow pets, there are ten times more surrenders of pets because they were inconvenient to someone who bought a pet on a whim.
Then comes the shelter itself and the decision to label a pet adoptable or “unadoptable”. This should not be a consideration. Suffering of a pet, that is irredeemable, painful and terminal is the only time euthanasia as a word should be used. If a pet is not irredeemably suffering, it does not deserve to be poisoned. No one would choose this for themselves if they had the hope of the lowest quality of life. Do we make this choice for the poor and sick in countries around the world? Why? Because it would be unethical to consider someone else making the choice for another person that there life was not worth living. But it is made 10,000 times each day for pets in US shelters.
Following the intake link at the shelter is the outbound effort. This is essentially a sales and marketing role that uses whatever available resources at hand to get the word out. This link can be weak at times, and a real effort to use any available free resource should be used (Think twitter, Facebook, web site, partner rescue email list, public email, flyers at pet stores, etc.). If money is available, paid advertising is a great bonus.
Next comes the foster link. This is not necessary if the pet is lucky enough to come in and out in a few days. But pets that don’t walk out the door quickly, even when labeled “adoptable” are in danger of getting on a kill list. And this is where the importance of fosters, temporary loving homes that will hold a pet until a good home can be found. This link in the adoption chain allows more cats and dogs a reprieve when they are homeless. Unlike homeless shelters for people where safety is virtually guaranteed and striven for, animal shelters are quite often the most dangerous place for a pet.
Not to say there are not shelters where this is always true. Many shelters are joining the No Kill community and saving pets at a rate for over 90%, with open intake. But the national average is closer to 50% or one in two pets entering leave dead. A statistic that is so overwhelming when estimates of 4 million cats and dogs are killed each year in shelters in the U.S. And perhaps as many as 90% or not suffering from something irreversible, like simply having nowhere to go.
Fosters change this dramatically. A pet in a shelter, often caged, with little or no attention, inadequate socializing and irregular food and water is not going to have the happy puppy or kitten personality people want in an adopted pet. Also, how do you describe a pet that came in with no history and has been caged for weeks waiting for someone to care?
A foster can give a dog a real home, learn behavior, do some training, socialize with other pets, people, and children and learn the personality of their charge. And all while keeping one pet out of the danger of being an “unadoptable” candidate in a shelter, which can meet death.
Fosters are such an integral part of this chain. I encourage anyone with the means to rescue just one dog to try it. Yes, it can be hard to give up your charge. But remember, give one foster to a good home, you can take another, and just keep adding one life saved every time one foster goes to a forever home. It’s how you keep doing and know you are changing the world with each foster that walks into your home.
Lastly is the adopter. No less important a link in this chain of saving lives. But without the foster, the adopter may never be able to find the dog that is the right fit for them, their home, and their family.
Consider fostering and Rescue One Dog today.