When it comes to saving animals that might otherwise be headed for euthanasia, “failure” can be viewed as a good thing.
A “foster fail” occurs when someone volunteers to care for an animal temporarily, and winds up keeping it rather than returning it to the shelter. That’s the best possible outcome of a fostering situation, says Hank Johnson, board member for the Humane Society of Tulsa.
“It happens quite a bit,” he says. “People don’t want to give the animal up.”
Crystal Wise, administrative specialist with the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter and overseer of its foster care program, says a number of people who agree to foster animals participate in the shelter’s Foster to Adopt program specifically for that reason.
Rose Grimm, manager of the Second Chance Animal Sanctuary in Norman, says fosters represent an important type of rescue. Second Chance works with animal shelters statewide to rescue dogs and cats that otherwise would be euthanized, and depend on fosters to temporarily care for animals that aren’t ready to be adopted. According to its website, Second Chance houses close to 100 dogs and cats and annually finds homes for more than 600 animals.
Animals rescued from euthanasia by Second Chance often aren’t spayed or neutered, have other veterinary needs or might have behavioral or training issues, says Grimm.
“We help animals in need, and one of best ways to do that is by fostering the animal,” she says. Fosters select an animal from the organization’s website, then pick up the animal and keep it for one to two weeks. In the case of those needing veterinary care or spaying or neutering, they keep the animal safe until the animal’s veterinary appointment. Second Chance provides food and whatever else the animal needs, depending on their own resources, says Grimm. The organization operates entirely on donations.
Fosters always have a chance to adopt the animal.
“We never want a situation where the foster wants the animal and we have to take it away from them,” says Grimm. “They get the first chance because they gave us a chance to save the animal by fostering them.”
Naomi Cunningham of southwest Oklahoma City began fostering Second Chance animals in December, and by early spring, had fostered close to 15 puppies.
“It’s great – I love it. You get to get a new puppy [each time],” she says.
The Oklahoma City Animal Shelter has had a fostering program for several years, but Wise says one facet – the “Flash Foster” program, whereby an animal is checked out to a foster caretaker for only a few hours – is fairly new.
“Any [animal] available for adoption can be taken out for a few hours a day,” says Wise. “It gets them out the shelter for a break.” Wise said weekend or overnight fostering is also proving popular.
Johnson says the Humane Society of Tulsa has had only a few requests from fosters who want to keep an animal part-time but has a “take a pet home for Christmas” program for temporary foster stays.
Wise says that while the Oklahoma City fostering program has been in place for several years, it has gained popularity recently, “because we’re trying to save as many animals as possible. People are willing to help more.” The need is there, she says, for the fostering program to grow even more.