Shelter fosters given responsibility to market cats and find adopters

This article deals with a new approach in finding homes for the unwanted shelter pets at Greenville County Animal Care Services, a high-kill shelter in upstate South Carolina. Please read over their new system, and leave a comment on whether you think this new plan is a stroke of genius, or just another way to place more responsibility on a foster parent and less on the shelter and its staff. Sue Canniff, Animal Care Supervisor, posted the following on their Facebook wall.

“The foster period is limited to 2 months. We place their threads in our ”Fosters Needing Rescue Album” on facebook but rescue interest is not as strong as when the pets are urgent and in our shelter. So once noted as in foster, it is most often necessary, and fosters are encouraged, to find adopters on their own, while if a rescue contacts our rescue team we will let the foster know. Foster to the rescue involves the foster being proactive in marketing to their social network (friends, coworkers etc). Also marketing by taking the foster pet around town (coffee shops, dog parks, downtown Greenville).”

This system will need a good foster system for it to work properly. By that, I mean the foster has to be someone who can be trusted. Both in caring for the pet, and in judging how well someone else will care for the pet in a rescue or a forever home. A lot of responsibility will placed on the foster, who will actively be responsible for finding the best home for the dog or cat in their care. Unfortunately, it will also come back on the foster rather than the shelter should a bad situation occur.

Michael wrote an article some time ago suggesting that fostering as the mainstay of animal rescue could be preferable to focusing on animal shelter facilities.

I really hope this system works. The two month time period is a big change, seeing many dogs or cats have been stuck in foster care for a year or more. The shelter is playing an active part in email and Facebook lists of animals in foster care who need to find a rescue or adopter. So it’s not like the foster is being abandoned without help.

Some of the benefits of giving the foster more responsibility include:

  • Knowing the type of home the pet needs, eg. no dogs, no other cats
  • Being able to do home visits to check out the environment
  • The possibility of adopting or contacting a rescue the foster is familiar with
  • Personalized care, meaning the foster will care more about the pet because they’ve lived with the dog or cat and want it to find the best home possible

In the wake of the Julianne Westberry case, everyone must be more cautious than they were even three months ago. The shelter must do its part and choose fosters with good moral character, or else the system won’t work. Rescues must also do their part by contacting the shelter, should they see a dog or cat they’d like to help.

While animals listed as being fostered aren’t as urgent as those still at the shelter, foster dogs and cats still need to find their way into permanent homes, as this will clear the foster to save more cats and dogs on the euthanasia lists.

Readers, how do you feel about this new system? Do you think it will work, or is it just placing more responsibility by someone paid to help find the unwanted pets a home, on someone who isn’t paid a penny to promote the animal temporarily in their care?


Facebook Discussion


Shelter fosters given responsibility to market cats and find adopters — 5 Comments

  1. Like Dee I’d be concerned about what would happen if the cats weren’t adopted in the 2 months, it would be horrible for them to have to go back to the shelter after being in a proper home. Would the fosterer feel pressured to keep the cats if that happened? If so then the Shelter would surely run out of fosterers.
    Cats Protection have a network of fosterers here and a friend had fostered one cat for 3 years, the cat has special needs and she felt obliged to keep her, even though she’s disabled herself and found it hard. By some miracle, recently someone came along to adopt the cat and it was very hard after 3 years to let her go, but thankfully she’s settled in her new home now.

  2. This concept is pretty ideal but I can’t see it really workable. The shelter is asking a whole lot from folks.

    I know quite a lot of wonderful fosterers, many who don’t even receive compensation for the day to day cat needs. To ask more of them, like marketing, would be pretty ballsy. I would hate to see fosterers “quit” because they’re expected to do much more when the shelter has paid staff that could be utilized. I think the better solution would be to have a shelter reorganization and create a better marketing venue than facebook.

    What would happen to the fostered animals after the 2 month period? Back to the shelter?

    • Unfortunately they go back to the shelter after the two month period. But many times a rescue or adoption will happen on the second go round. We helped them with foster care for a few years. Many of the cats were only with us for 2 weeks until the rescue coordinators had time to contact rescues and then we’d take the cat back to the shelter and switch out a few more. All of them were pulled on the day they would have been euthanized.

      That’s why I get so angry about the Julianne Westberry case. Any time a foster or rescue has a serious situation the shelter is willing to help. We were able to rehome two dozen cats with their help in February 2012. The cats all went to their adoption floor except one, who went to a local rescue.

      You’re buying the cat or dog time. And the way I proactively write the urgent lists now it really puts the animal out there so chances are better at finding a home.

  3. There is an argument that all rescue cats should be with fosterers and out of noisy shelter facilities where cats are more likely to get a disease and be in a smaller cage etc. I would have thought a cat living with a foster parent would be more content and healthier.

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