Engage Fosters in COVID-19: Easy Steps to Share with Your Community to Save Lives

By Rory Adams

Rory Adams | March 12th, 2020

Community members are the most valuable asset to a shelter and can greatly impact lives saved if a shelter is shut down, or if you are low on staff and volunteers.

Share this with your community of fosters, adopters, staff and social media followers and tell them the easiest way to sign up to foster, when and if you need them.

The American Pets Alive! COVID-19 Animal Shelter Preparedness Guide launched March 13 and offers a framework to ensure that no shelter pet lives are lost and that shelters are proactive in preparation throughout the mutant COVID-19 outbreak. The health and safety of our pets and the community is a top priority for animal shelters.

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8 Steps to Take to Help Your Local Shelter Save Lives During COVID-19

What is the single most impactful thing you can do as a community member to help ensure pets are safe if there is a shelter shutdown due to quarantine or staff illness? Get ready to foster!

Shelter pet lifesaving is a community effort and sometimes shelters don’t have all the resources they need to implement plans that allow them to save the most lives. COVID-19 has led to shelter shutdowns, and will likely lead to more in the future. If shelters are closed for adoptions but still need to intake pets who are stray or whose owners are ill, they will fill up quickly, which could lead to the unnecessary killing of shelter pets for space. In this case, foster care may be the only way to get pets out alive.

Understand how COVID-19 might impact lifesaving at your local shelter

There are many possible scenarios that could happen as a result of coronavirus. In even the best case, shelters will experience an increase in intake and a drop in adoptions and pets returned to owners. When people feel worried or uncertain about the future, they are less likely to want to make a lifelong decision. Fostering a pet is the easiest way you can help when a shelter reaches critical capacity for this or any other reason.

Know the facts about COVID-19 and companion animals

Companion animals should not need to be quarantined and do not pose a risk to the public for spreading COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says, “To date, CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19. At this time, there is no evidence that companion animals including pets can spread COVID-19.

Talk to your shelter

Let them know you want to help and ask them what they need. For some shelters, they will ask you to foster right away, to help them reduce the number of animals on site. Others may want you to wait until they experience operational disruptions.

Prepare your home for another pet

Talk to your family members or roommates about your desire to foster a pet if needed. Prepare an appropriate space in your home and make sure you have a plan if you decide to keep your foster pet away from your owned pets.

Have supplies at the ready

Think about what supplies you will need to foster a pet. For dogs, you’ll want a crate, food bowls, a leash, collar, and treats and enrichment toys. For cats, you’ll need a litter box, litter, a collar, toys, and bowls. In some cases, the shelter will provide these, but if you can use things you already have on hand or ask around. You’d be surprised how many crates and supplies are stored in people’s garages, unused. 

Make sure your own pets are up to date on vaccines and have up to two weeks of any necessary medication.

Know your deal breakers

Can your household foster pets with behavioral challenges or medical issues that require special care? Make sure you communicate this to the shelter so they can make a good foster match. If you are looking for a pet that can easily acclimate to your home, consider a senior cat or dog.

Stock up on dog and cat food

The shelter might provide food, but it’s a good idea to have enough food to feed your pets and your foster pets for at least two weeks.

Recruit one friend, neighbor or family member to sign up as a foster

Tell your friends and family to consider fostering now, or in the future if and when there are impacts from COVID-19. Ask your shelter the easiest way for new fosters to get started.

Lastly, please share this information on social media so that others can help. And if you do foster, post pictures so that other people can see how fun and rewarding it is!


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