We are always in need of foster homes. We do not have a shelter and are strictly foster home run, so that means,we can only rescue as many dogs and cats as we have foster homes for. Foster homes are the backbone of our rescue. We never have enough foster homes. They are our most treasured volunteers and the ones that are hardest to get and hardest to keep.
Fostering is a hard job, don't get me wrong, but it is also very rewarding to know that you gave a dog/cat that would otherwise have been euthanized a second chance at finding a family to love them. Many of these dogs have been abused and neglected and all they want is someone to play with them, feed them and love them. They just need a little training, socialization and guidance before they can be placed. Many need to be fed some good food and receive veterinary care. It is tough to see them go after you put so much time and effort into loving and caring for them, but when you see the happiness in their eyes when they meet their forever families, it makes it all worthwhile and you can move on to help the next dog that needs the special attention and love only a foster home can provide. We need you! It will be tough, but we are here to support and guide you along the way and it gets easier the more you do it!
The following guidelines are intended to provide you with everything you need to understand the obligations of a foster family and allow you to decide whether fostering may be right for you.
Why are foster homes needed?
First and foremost, they provide a more appropriate environment for learning and growth than a place like a shelter or kennel. In a foster home, a dog is exposed to all of the same experiences they would likely get in a real home and have a chance to properly learn, socialize and interact with people and sometimes other animals as well as situations and their environment. Unfortunately, these opportunities are few and far between in shelters and kennels where, due to the large number of animals and lacking resources, these activities are not readily available. In short, foster homes better prepare dogs for their real home and in turn, make for a smoother transition when that time comes.
Are foster homes important to rescue groups?
Foster homes are the backbone of any rescue organization. The number of animals a rescue can help is only as good as the number of good foster homes an organization has available. A rescue can have all of the leashes, bowls, food and money in the world available, but if it has no good places for the dogs or cats to stay, it can't really do a lot of good.
What is expected of a foster family for AAVA?
It is critical that a foster family understand what is expected of them and adhere to these expectations. Oftentimes, having a foster family that does not follow guidelines is more problematic than having no foster family, at all. As we are run entirely by volunteer time and donations, we do not have the luxury of time or money and need our foster families to stick within our foster guidelines and practices to allow us to help more dogs.
Our expectations of our foster families :
Plan to keep the dog indefinitely - We cannot guarantee how long you will be asked to foster a dog. Sometimes dogs are adopted in weeks, sometimes it takes many, many months. Foster families should not enter into fostering with an expectation that a dog will be gone in a certain period of time. The length of time it takes a foster dog to be adopted is often directly related to the amount of energy the foster family puts into training the dog, socializing the dog and attending events to promote adoption of the dog.
If you choose to foster a dog who has a potential out of state adopter or rescue offer, you must understand that circumstances may change. The adopter or rescue may change their mind, etc. Again... we cannot guarantee a length of time you will need to foster the dog.
Provide a good home for the dog - Foster families are expected to provide a safe, comfortable and healthy environment for their foster dog. Our foster dogs should be indoor dogs, they should be fed healthy food, given appropriate access to water and be exercised and socialized in such a way as to create a positive, well tempered dog.
Work with us for medical treatment of the foster dog - AAVA will pay for the medical care of the dog during the time it is being fostered, to include routine check-ups, spaying/neutering, vaccinations, microchip insertion, treatment of routine illnesses and treatment of emergencies should they arise. In order to control our expenses, however, the foster family will utilize a veterinarian provided by AAVA and will notify appropriate rescue personnel prior to any medical treatment for the dog to ensure finances and treatment options are appropriately aligned.
Work with us for dog food - AAVA will supply the foster family with dog food during the period of fostering at your request, as long as we have it available. We get donations of dog food periodically and are happy to help our foster families. Foster families should work with AAVA personnel to secure dog food, which means traveling to meet a AAVA volunteer to pick up food and/or asking pet food retailers for donations.
Treat the dog as if they were your own - The foster family is expected to be able to handle routine care and situations with the dog without having to involve other AAVA personnel. Meaning, we do not have the resources to take dogs for walks, stop by and check on them or other mundane tasks that should rightfully be expected of a foster family. As a foster family, you should operate within the fostering guidelines set forth by AAVA, but essentially, this is your dog during the fostering period and you should care for it as such.
Participate in adoption events - From time to time, AAVA will have events and other activities which promote the adoption of your foster dog. These may include adoption days where dogs are brought out for public viewing, displays on websites, fundraisers, etc. Foster families are expected to be available and work with AAVA to have the dog at such events when possible, provide the appropriate information for websites, including pictures and descriptions/bios or any other activities designed to promote the adoption of the dog.
Participate in the adoption process - AAVA regularly receives applications on dogs in our foster homes and we have a centralized process whereby these are screened. If an applicant is interested in a foster dog or cat and has passed the initial screening, the foster family is expected to contact the applicant to discuss their dog or cat, providing details and other information to help make a suitable adoption, as well as possibly conducting the appropriate meet and greets with the potential applicant to allow them to meet and interact with the dog or cat. This may entail driving some distance and/or allowing the potential applicant to visit the dog or cat in your home if you are comfortable doing so.
Keep us updated on your dog - Foster families are expected to provide updates on the status and progress of any contact with potential applicants to the Adoption Coordinator and/or Foster Coordinator so that we can ensure their application is progressing and being handled appropriately. Also, foster families are required to update the foster coordinator weekly or every other week to keep us posted on the progress or any updates on the foster dog.
Work on basic obedience commands and house manners - Foster dogs will get adopted more quickly and will stay in their new home once adopted if they know some basic commands such as sit, heel, come, down, and stay. It is also important that they are crate/kennel trained and have basic house manners such as teaching them to not jump on visitors, not counter surf, stay off furniture and sleep on a dog bed or the floor and not your bed. We expect all our foster families to work with their foster dogs on these basic skills.
What benefits does a foster family get?
Well, hopefully you're not looking into fostering for any benefit other than the personal satisfaction of helping an animal in need. That's the main benefit you'll get from being a foster family and that's what makes our fosters so special. By being a foster family and spending your time with a dog, you know that you are directly helping save a dog. Every foster home equals a dog who probably otherwise would not have been rescued. As AAVA pulls dogs largely from kill shelters, each foster home brings a chance to avoid that outcome for a dog and get him/her ready for a lifelong home with a good family. For our foster families, that's worth more than money or other incentives. Dogs seem to know when they've been saved and the look on your foster dogs face when you take him in and when he's happy with his forever home is priceless.
Won't I get attached to the dog?
You probably will get attached to the dog and in fact, you should. That's the sign of good ownership. We've had many fosters in the past that actually ended up adopting their dog and that's certainly a happy ending that we would welcome. Fosters should take comfort knowing, however, that for each dog they foster and find a good home, that opens the door for another dog to be pulled from a bad circumstance and have the same done for them AND it has found a great long-term home for the original dog. So, yes, you're going to get attached and that's ok, and if you decide to keep him, that's great, too. Just remember, there's nothing but an upside to a foster dog finding a permanent home.
What are you looking for in a foster family?
We don't have a generic template for what we're looking for. Our foster families come in all forms and shapes. Overall, though, we're looking for someone who is responsible, mature and dependable. We need someone who loves dogs and has the patience to deal with situations which may arise, the willingness to work to find their foster dog a home, the responsibility to support the adoption process and the heart and compassion to provide the best possible home to a dog that may only be in their life temporarily. We generally want people who are over 21 years old, who have dog experience, who have a fenced in yard (preferably, but exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis) or some other secure area for the dog, who live in a safe environment and who have the time to devote to a foster dog.
Do you ever need short term foster homes?
Yes! We need short term foster homes to recover a dog from spay/neuter and/or to quarantine a dog that has come right from the shelter. Whereas we cannot guarantee a time frame, often these foster homes are only needed for 2-4 weeks.