While most of the world has come to a screeching halt because of COVID-19, the pandemic has not stopped the work of animal rescue organizations and their volunteers. Because of social isolation, the amount of people who adopt or foster pets has increased dramatically — there has been a 90 percent increase in foster requests nationwide, according to TIME magazine.
Junior Janie Ward’s family decided to foster two puppies during quarantine because they could use their surplus free time to help animals. Fostering involved feeding, cleaning up after and playing with the dogs, Ward said. The Ward family kept the dogs for about a month, due to the danger of adopting out animals under eight weeks old; and because social distancing orders prohibited the organization of an adoption meet-and-greet for the puppies, Ward explained. Overall, Ward said that the experience was very enjoyable, and social isolation allowed her to spend more time with the dogs.
“I think that the difference between fostering in quarantine and fostering during any other time is the amount of time you have to take care of them,” Ward said. “It is a big responsibility and it is easier to do when you are home all the time.”
Philip Gartner, mathematics instructional supervisor, believes that fostering is critical for the growth of shelters and the animals they rescue. As an experienced foster parent, he explained not all shelters have the supplies to help young animals and most of the time foster homes give them an opportunity for a better life.
Because of most shelters’ inability to support kittens under eight weeks, they have become one of the most euthanized populations of animals, according to kittenlady.org, the website of Hannah Shaw, a kitten rescuer and humane educator.
“[People foster] to help support the animals and the process of getting them ready to find forever homes,” Gartner said. “In most cases, [foster parents] take care of kittens to get them socialized and big enough for adoption. The shelters cannot offer the kind of support a kitten requires like a loving home can.”
While fostering can be very rewarding, senior Isabel Garvey explained that it takes a lot of patience and can occasionally be gut-wrenching. With the experience of fostering four litters of puppies, a pregnant dog and three other dogs, she said that regardless of doing everything in her ability to help all of her foster pets, not every fostering experience has ended the way she wanted.
“I had one litter of puppies that were really really sick,” Garvey said. “They came off of the streets of Kentucky and they had every parasite imaginable. Unfortunately, they contracted parvo, [a contagious virus spread through animals by contact with feces], while they were with me which is really deadly for dogs and two of them passed away which was really hard.”
Despite potential hardships that may come from fostering, Ward believes that it is very gratifying and fun. She said that it creates memorable experiences, as well as providing the satisfaction of knowing you are helping animals in need.
“The best part about fostering is getting to have puppies to play with!” Ward said. “It also feels good to know you are helping out by giving them a temporary home. The best moment I had while fostering was when the puppies fell asleep on my lap. They were so sweet and loving.”
Garvey believes that fostering is a great learning experience and quarantine can be an opportunity to have a temporary companion for those who usually wouldn’t be able to. She feels that now is a great time to see if an animal would match well with a family
“A lot of the time, fostering is better because a lot of people don’t have time to own a dog,” Garvey said. “But, especially at a time like this, everyone has free time. So if your life wouldn’t normally allow for you to take care of a dog, fostering would be a great opportunity to try it out.”