A few days ago, The Montgomery County Animal Shelter took in 85 animals in one day. Even for them, 85 in one day is a lot. Normal for them seems to run between 40 and 70 in a day. So let’s pick a middle number. If they average an intake of 55 dogs and cats per day, seven days a week, 52 weeks per year, that brings us to a hideous total intake number of around 20000 animals per year. And that is a conservative estimate.
Imagine 20 thousand animals per year coming through your doors, in need of help and homes. Now multiply that by the thousands and thousands of municipal, county, and privately run shelters in the United States, and you suddenly understand how statisticians conclude that this country euthanizes upwards of FOUR MILLION dogs and cats each year.
This time of year, puppy and kitten season is in full swing. In fact, the first person to arrive at MCAS this morning found a rubber storage tub full of puppies on the shelter doorstep. With the lid taped shut. Fortunately, she found them in time, and the puppies are okay. But now they need somewhere safe to go.
This time of year, the need for more foster homes goes from urgent to critical.
Foster parents take dogs or cats home, get them physically and psychologically healthy, and then help to find them permanent homes. They are a vital and indispensible part of the animal welfare system. They make it possible to save thousands of animals that otherwise would die in shelters due to treatable illness, behavioral issues, or even simple malnutrition – these are some of the most common reasons that land animals in shelters.
I have the privilege of knowing dozens of successful pet foster parents. These people take sick, injured, abandoned, elderly, behaviorally challenged animals home, rehabilitate them, house them and love them until the perfect forever home comes along. Foster parenting, they say, is both joy and sadness, satisfaction and frustration, and both the easiest and hardest thing they’ve ever done.
Remember Hope? Gabby? Mandy? Lucille? Elliott? Kiah? Zoe?
Not one of these dogs would have survived the shelter system without the intervention of foster parents willing to take them home and help them.
Hope and Elliott were deathly ill. Gabby was elderly, frail, and badly injured. Mandy and Kiah are both considered special needs dogs because they have hearing loss. Lucille was elderly, a little arthritic, and had a few other age related issues. Zoe was paralyzed. Without foster parents, they would probably all be dead.
Instead, because a group of dedicated rescuers were willing to take them home and get them the help they needed, Elliott, Gabby, Kiah, Zoe, and Lucille all have been adopted. Hope is fully recovered, gorgeous, and looking for her forever home. Adorable Mandy (the little white terrier) is still in foster care, and waiting for a home that can manage her high energy and deafness.
This is what I call success.
Please, consider fostering for your local shelter or a rescue organization of your choice. Some people choose to specialize in fostering tiny orphaned baby animals requiring specialized care. Other fosters prefer the geriatric pets. Some take the desperately sick or injured ones, for the joy of helping them recover their health. Whatever your preference, there is a need.
And when you go to the shelter to sign up, bring a friend. Or several.