Affordable Pets

9 Mar

ImageLove pets, but think you can’t afford one? Become a foster pet parent! Since the economic downturn began, many wonderful pets have been surrendered or abandon due to their owners falling on hard times. Even though shelters have slashed their adoption fees, there is still the matter of having the economic resources to care for a pet, namely food & vet bills; this is where fostering has a clear advantage.

There are plenty of reasons to foster rather than adopt besides economic:

  • Time constraints. You may travel a lot for your job & it would not be fair or economically feasible to constantly kennel your pet. Depending on the foster program, you may care for the animal for only a few days or a few months depending on your agreed terms of availability. You get the love of a wonderful pet and the peace of mind knowing that instead of feeling abandon at a kennel, they are well loved in their new forever home. This is also true of the elderly who would like the love and companionship of a pet without having to worry who would care for their pet when they become incapacitated or die.
  • Trail run. You may not be sure how a pet will fit into your lifestyle so this gives you a chance to make a short-term commitment. Perhaps you are curious about a particular breed, but you are not sure of the temperament or the amount of work & expense they require, there are plenty of opportunities for breed specific fosters.
  • Service animals. Some fosters are specifically to prepare a service animal to assist a disabled person. Your role would be to provide a loving environment and participate in the training. You can also play a key role in fostering other working animals, those involved in law enforcement, rescue & recovery activities, or therapy in medical or educational settings.

Why are animals in foster homes rather than shelters?

This depends on the foster program. Most shelters are just too full and many animals simply don’t thrive when incarcerated. An animal’s best chance of adoption depends on them being emotionally stable and physically healthy; which is best achieved via a stable, caring, home setting. Some animals, like service dogs, require socialization in home environments and training, while other animals like horses, other livestock or exotic pets simply can not be cared for in shelters. There are also emergency fosters for people in crisis situations like a house fire or catastrophic illness, who just need someone to care for their pets on a very short term basis until they can get back on their feet.

What’s provided?

Foster programs differ on what resources they provide, so be sure to ask upfront before you commit to a program. Since foster programs are almost always non-profit 501(c)(3) , much depends on the program’s mission & available funding. If you choose to pay any of the expenses yourself, be sure to keep the receipts for your tax deductions. Some of the most common resources provided are:

  • Food & bowls
  • Toileting supplies (litter, housebreaking pads, etc)
  • Grooming supplies or services
  • Veterinarian visits, medications & medical supplies
  • Bedding, cages & tanks
  • Toys
  • Training & related equipment
  • Carriers & leashes
  • Transportation reimbursement

Who can foster?

Nearly all legitimate foster programs require an application & screening process for potential foster homes. If you rent & are not allowed to have a pet or cannot afford your apartment’s pet fee, you may be able to have this waived as part of the American With Disability Act Assistance Animal provision. Many common ailments qualify, everything from depression to diabetes, and you can always have the animal certified for around $65 if it becomes an issue.

How do you find a pet foster program near you?

You can contact your local animal shelter or animal welfare organization or use The ASPCA’s search engine. Be sure to research a number or programs and ask plenty of questions regarding the responsibilities, expectations & resources each provide in order pick the one that is the best fit for you and your lifestyle.

Know thine self.

Be honest about what you want and what you are willing to do. My strength is working with sick, injured, elderly or behavioral problem pets; my home is very quiet, I’m very patient, I know how to do a lot of medical procedures & there isn’t much that grosses me out. On the other hand, I know I would not be a good match for a large animal since I do not have the space, or an animal that require a lot of exercise since  I do not have the energy.

Another issue is the surrender factor; some people feel they would not be able to give a pet to a new home once they have become attached. I’m going to be really blunt here…grow up, it isn’t about you! Teachers love, nurture & support their students, but they don’t try to keep them; they take pleasure in preparing them to move on and thrive in their new surroundings. Same is true of nurses. No one truly “owns” an animal; they are simply entrusted to our care for an indeterminate amount of time. Keep this mindset and you will do just fine. You’ll still be sad to see them go, but you’ll be happy knowing you were the one who make their new lease on life possible.

More than 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters in the US every year, less than 2% of cats and only 15% of dogs are returned to their owners, and tragically 60% of dogs and 70% percent of cats are euthanized. There are a lot of people in this world looking for love and companionship; why not share your life with a little soul that is always glad to see you and desperately needs you? You’ll be glad you did!

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