Foster FAQ

What is a pet foster parent?

A pet foster parent provides a temporary home for a homeless pet while it’s waiting to be adopted. The foster parent provides basic care including love and affection, food, water, and shelter. A foster parent is responsible for preparing a dog or cat for its permanent home by teaching it basic manners.

Who can foster?

If you are over 18 and can open your heart and home to a homeless animal, you can foster. (If you are not the owner of the home, you must have the permission of the owner to foster.) Each animal may have its own criteria for the perfect foster home. Some animals have special needs but there are more than enough homeless animals that need help.

How much does fostering cost?

It depends. When possible, we provide you with everything you need to at least get started with fostering. Since we run mostly on donations, anything we have to give to you has to be given to us first, whether people are giving us the food and litter itself, or the money for us to go buy it. Many fosters do need to purchase additional items for their foster animals, especially if they are fostering tiny kittens or some other situation where the initial supply isn’t enough. These items can be considered as donations to the shelter at tax time. Please consult with your accountant for your particular situation.

How long does fostering last?

Foster length varies and depends on the pet and reason for fostering. Most of the fostering through the HSWC is kittens who are too young for spay/neuter surgery. How long they stay in foster depends on how long it takes them to reach the required 8 weeks and 2 pounds (and when a vet can get them in for surgery, which can take a while in the summer), and if they’re sick or not. Some pets have a harder time getting adopted, or they have special needs that make finding an adoptive home a more involved task. If you are only able to foster for a certain period, please let us know ahead of time. Otherwise, please be prepared to keep your foster animal as long as they need. The average stay in foster care for kittens is 2-3 months.Foster length can vary from a few weeks to a few months and sometimes even up to a year depending on the pet. 

What is Sleepover Fostering?

Sleepover Fostering is a new program for adoptable dogs that are having some difficulty getting adopted. It is not an adoption trial; the dogs have to qualify for the program, as determined by our canine team. You would take a qualifying dog home for a few hours to a few days, to see how they do in a home environment. We ask that you take pictures, do a short behavior survey, and do a little write-up at the end that we can use to promote the dog and help us find the best home for them.

Will I get any training?

Before you can take any animals home, you will need to attend an orientation. We have several online orientations a month. You will receive links to them when you fill out the application, or you can check the HSWC Foster Care Facebook page to sign up for upcoming trainings. There is a full foster orientation that will allow you to do either regular fostering or Sleepovers. There is also a shorter Sleepover training, but that will only qualify you to do Sleepovers.

We also now have a foster resources website with links to training that we think will be helpful from several trusted organizations.

How often does a foster animal need to be brought in for check-ups?

Foster parent volunteers need to transport animals to the HSWC on a regular basis (every 2-3 weeks, more often if they’re ill) for vaccinations, vet checks, weight checks, etc. Vaccinations and routine checks and illnesses are taken care of at our foster clinics. A clinic schedule will be given to you when you pick up your first fosters. 

Will a foster animal have accidents or cause damage?

Foster animals, like any other companion animal in your home, may destroy carpeting, drapes, clothing and other valuable items. Potty-training kittens will definitely have accidents. Preparing your home and the area the animals will stay in can prevent most accidents, but not all of them. Keep your animals in a space where they can’t cause significant damage to the environment, and where the environment can’t cause significant damage to them.

Do I need to keep foster animals separate from my pets?

Foster animals will need to be isolated from your own companion animals. A separate room or enclosed area with no carpet will often work best (like a bathroom or laundry room). This is to protect your animals from any illnesses or parasites the foster animals may be harboring.

Will HSWC treat my pet if he is injured or becomes sick because of a foster animal?

HSWC cannot treat your personally owned animals. If your animal becomes sick or injured due to interactions with a HSWC foster animal, you will be responsible for all medical care required.

I love the idea of being a foster volunteer, but I’m worried about how I’ll feel when it’s time for the animal to be adopted.

It can be difficult to let go once you have become emotionally attached to a foster animal. Be prepared for tears and some heartache when your animals are ready for adoption. But remember foster care volunteers play a crucial part in helping unwanted animals get to permanent, loving homes they deserve. Some foster parents find it easier to let go when they take their animals to adoption events, so they can meet the adoptive families. The more you foster, the easier it is to let them go, because you know that when your current group find their homes, you can save even more!

How do I know when there are animals that need my help?

Most of our foster program is cats & kittens, though we do occasionally have dogs, puppies, and others that need foster homes. After you fill out the application, your name will be added to the cat email list and/or the dog one. For cats, you will fill out the On Deck Survey each time you’re ready for a new group. When a group is found that match your wishes, you will be contacted to see if you can come get them. There will also sometimes be special pleas, if we have animals that are too young or ill to remain in the shelter. For dogs, an email is sent out each time there are dogs/puppies that need a foster home. It could be months between emails, or you could get 3 in a week. If you see a dog you’re interested in, you’ll just respond to the email. For Sleepovers, an email will be sent when we have dogs that qualify.

The first time you come in, it will take a few minutes, as you’ll need to sign paperwork, and we’ll gather any supplies you may need. Subsequent times will be faster.

Are foster animals ever euthanized?

Sometimes adoption is not an option for animals with some illnesses or behavior problems even after the animal has been fostered. HSWC will determine if other options, including transfer to an animal rescue group, are appropriate and available. Knowing that an animal you have fostered may need to be humanely euthanized can be very hard to handle. Please remember that the HSWC foster care team is always here for support.

What if a friend or family member wants to adopt my foster animal?

Thank you for helping find homes for your foster animals! We are delighted when foster parents find adopters they trust, though all potential adopters must have animal cruelty checks done before adopting. Please keep in mind however, that the animals will not be available for adoption until they have been spayed/neutered, have been microchipped, and have had at least their first shots. An adoption checklist will be provided for each animal. If you’d like to become an Adoption Ambassador, we’ll even teach you how to do the adoption paperwork yourself!

Can foster parents adopt their foster pets?

Yes!  As long as foster parents meet the shelter requirements that are necessary for adopting, foster parents have the first choice to adopt their foster pets, unless otherwise specified. 

Are foster animals contagious?  Will my pets' or my health be jeopardized?

It is always a health risk to expose your animal to other animals, whether at the off-leash areas, the vet waiting room or other common animal areas.  If your pets are current on their vaccinations, maintain healthy diets and lifestyles, and are not immune-compromised, then the health risk should be minimal.

If someone in your household is immuno-compromised, consult your doctor before fostering.  If you are pregnant (or someone in your house is) or plan to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before fostering cats.  You may need to take some special precautions during your pregnancy.

Are purchases made for foster care tax-deductible?

Purchases made for foster care may be considered donations to the shelter. Consult with your accountant for your specific situation.

What do I do if my foster animal needs veterinary care?

In order for HSWC to pay for vet care, authorization must be obtained BEFORE you take the animal to the vet. Directions for obtaining authorization are in the foster manual you will get when you pick up your first foster animals. If you want to pay for it yourself, no authorization is needed; we just need you to keep us up-to-date on the animal’s health, and provide a copy of the paperwork for the animal’s records.

What if one of my foster animals dies? Will I be unable to foster again?

As sad as it is, it’s an unfortunate fact that animals in your care may die. Most of the animals that come into the shelter are from an uncertain background, and may have problems or illnesses that we can’t detect when they get to us. They may be malnourished. The smaller the kitten, the higher the risk. If an animal in your care dies, just let us know. Depending on the situation, you may need to bring it in, but you can usually bury it in your yard, if you wish. We know that death isn’t uncommon, and we won’t judge you for it. As long as it wasn’t due to neglect or abuse, it won’t affect your ability to foster for us again.

What is an Adoption Ambassador?

Adoption Ambassadors are foster parents who have trained as adoption counselors. They can set up and run events, and are authorized to do adoptions for the HSWC. Some Ambassadors just do adoptions for their own foster kittens, while some will run huge events with 50+ adoptions in a weekend. We’re happy to teach you to be either kind. Just ask!