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How to Foster a Pet

Welcoming a furry friend temporarily into your home can change an animal's life (and your family's) for the better.

By Rita Colorito

Fostering a pet
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Gilbert Ford

If you're trying to decide whether to adopt a pet and looking for a fun way to volunteer with your family, foster pet parenting may be for you. Foster parents provide a temporary home for animals in a range of circumstances, including those rescued from high-kill shelters, and those whose owners are ill or have been deployed. "These pets need a place to stay, but we don't want to put them in a kennel," says Sandra D. Simpson of SecondChanceDogRescue.org in San Diego. "Every single one of our dogs goes to a private home."

Many animals arrive at a shelter before they are ready for adoption and can't stay there because they are recovering from an injury or illness, require behavioral therapy, or are too young and need to be house-trained, socialized, and spayed or neutered. Once the pet is healed or reaches an adoptable age, he is sent to an adoption program.

While fostering is a great way to help an animal in need without making a permanent commitment, you are doing much more than providing a temporary home. Foster families increase an animal's chance of being adopted by providing feedback on his temperament, activity level, and likes and dislikes.

Foster Fundamentals

Fond Farewell

Fostering is a great experience, but saying bye can be hard. Before you sign up, make sure your kids are old enough for the emotional responsibility and understand the pet is temporary. "Most children aren't going to be happy to see that animal leave," says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of adoptions at the ASPCA. Help kids cope by giving regular reminders that the pet will eventually be adopted by someone else.

Originally published in the November 1, 2010, issue of Family Circle magazine.