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Foster homes serve an invaluable role in the welfare of animals. Some animals come into the shelter healthy, happy-go-lucky, and exhibiting low signs of stress. These animals are immediately ready for adoption. On the other hand, there are animals with medical conditions who are experiencing high levels of stress or that are under-socialized and may not be ready for adoption. For animals like these, adoption may not be immediate and they are instead considered good candidates for foster. Let’s take a deeper look at circumstances that create a need for foster home support.

Medical Conditions: Animals that have a medical condition are best suited for foster homes. Recovery is often quicker when the stress of the shelter is removed and one-on-one care can be provided. Medical conditions can range from amputations and broken bones to upper respiratory infections and more severe conditions like neurological disorders. Treatments may include wound care, ointment application, breathing treatments, physical therapy, or simply giving medication. The environment and care received in foster is preferred and more suitable to what can be provided in a shelter, where the staff’s attention is overwhelmingly divided among all the animals in the shelter.

Fear, Anxiety, Stress: As you can imagine, shelters can be stressful. There are a lot of animals, many noises, and constant motion. Animals who are ordinarily well-balanced may show symptoms of fear, anxiety, and stress (FAS) in the shelter. Behaviors caused by FAS can show up in a variety of ways, including, cowering in the back of the kennel or condo, hiding, being reluctant to exit the kennel, shaking, barking, biting, hissing, swatting, and refusing to eat. Animals that are exhibiting high levels of FAS are unlikely to be adopted. In foster, the animal is able to be the best version of itself and therefore has the best opportunity to be adopted.

Undersocialization: Under-socialized animals are frequently accepted into the shelter. These are a distinct group of dogs and cats that have had little to no exposure to humans. Under socialization can occur in circumstances such as animal hoarding or being born in the wild. In this case, the animal does not allow handling. While staff does work with these animals and they do make progress, it is often slow due to the limited time a staff member is able to work with the animal. Atlanta Humane tries to place under-socialized animals in foster homes, where socialization can be done more effectively and progress can be made more quickly. Under-socialized animals have so much untapped potential. With time spent in foster, the animal can regularly and consistently interact with a dedicated human(s) and acclimate to living inside a home. In these situations, fostering is a special opportunity for the animal to truly flourish. In addition, foster parents learn a lot about the dog or cat and any specific needs they have that can help ensure they are paired with the right forever family.

Overstimulation: Have you ever gone to the shelter and seen a dog chronically barking or walking in circles? This may be overstimulation. Overstimulation occurs when the external stimuli (e.g. loud noises, smells, constant motion) become overwhelming. Inside the shelter, animals are bombarded with this type of external stimuli, which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed. This manifests itself in behaviors like hyperactivity, reactivity, obsessive behaviors, and aggression. Moving these animals into foster not only decreases the exposure to the stimuli but is also an opportunity for the animal to receive socialization, exercise, and mental stimulation. With this combination, the overstimulation is eliminated and the animal can begin to thrive as they look for their forever home.

Long timers: Shelters are meant to be short-term places for animals to be loved and cared for while waiting for a forever home. Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, some animals take longer than others to find the right home. Once an animal has been in the shelter for an extended period of time, Atlanta Humane tries to place them in foster. The mental and emotional state of the animal can suffer when they’re in a shelter environment for a long time. In foster, the dog or cat has the opportunity to decompress, get into a routine with a family, and begin to learn positive behaviors that cannot be learned otherwise.

Babies: Plain and simple, shelters are not a place for young animals. Newborns need the opportunity to develop their immune systems and spend time in a quiet place under the care of their mother. If the newborns are orphaned, they require around-the-clock care that shelters are unable to provide. In all these situations, foster care is mandatory until the animals are old enough to be spayed/neutered. Once that happens, the puppies and kittens can come into the shelter for adoption.

Shelters are not an ideal stop in an animal’s life journey. And while shelters provide a valuable service to the community, some animals need an alternative solution while waiting for a permanent home. Foster homes are a vital solution provided to animals that are not able to receive the level of support and attention some situations require. Atlanta Humane is proud to partner with people across the community to provide foster homes for these types of animals so they can be given the opportunity to thrive. To learn more about becoming a foster, click here.