I have learned that while good intentioned, not all foster groups are equal. They all care about/for animals and are doing their best. Foster groups fill a distinct need in every community, mainly because of lax pet owners who allow their pets to go unspayed/unneutered. Not all foster groups put the best interest of animals first, in my opinion this is because they are too concerned with the one animal instead of the larger picture (the hundreds/thousands). This short sightedness causes them to overlook acceptable homes, because they feel those homes are not “perfect”. It is truly (or should be) about finding the animal a great home with a family that will love and take care of it. I know that foster groups invest a lot of time, energy and emotions into each and every one of their charges, but they need to be able to see past those emotions and give the not so “perfect” family a second look. For every animal they place in a home they free up space to save another.
What is most important is giving the animal the best possible match and allowing it to go to its furever home as quickly as possible. This allows another animal to be fostered and taken out of a shelter environment where their fear and confusion can alter their personality. It is only in a foster setting that an animal’s true nature can be seen and this allows for a match with a family that will truly last “furever”.
I spend too much money each month on my pets (I’m afraid to total it up for fear of a heart attack). I have hung over 15ft of shelving for the cats to play, purchased a house close to a dog part for the dogs, have plans for an outdoor enclosure for the cats and all in all have spent untold amounts of time and money ensuring the animals that share my home have the best possible home I can manage. I spoil them all rotten and they rule the house. Within five minutes of meeting me or seeing my home I’m labeled as “that crazy pet person”. Who in their right mind would spend this much time, energy and money on animals? The truth is, quite a number of people would. I do not have a big head when I say I am the adopter most foster groups dream of. I know this as I used to foster dogs and have been told so by other foster groups. It is who I am, I do it for both me and the animals.
I decided it was time to find 2 new cats to join my existing motley crew and knew it would be slam dunk with any foster group I contacted. Who wouldn’t want their charge going to a home like mine? Imagine my surprise when the exact opposite of what I was expecting happened! I was denied by multiple foster groups after only doing cursory work to determine if my home was fit for a cat. Bear in mind my pets have all lived long lives, I have excellent references and all my current pets are happy, healthy and up to date on vaccinations. You really couldn’t do much better than me, or so I thought. Here are some of the issues I ran into:
- Denied because I recently adopted another cat. I explained I wasn’t looking for immediate placement, I just wanted to get my application approved so that if the “right” cat for my family came along all would be done and he/she could come home quickly. This group offered a home visit, which never happened. I had multiple phone interviews, an in depth application and checking of references. I was denied and told that because of the recent addition (the new cat) I could consider re-applying in 3 or more months and they may reconsider me.
- Another group actually asked me if I smoke. A bit intrusive, but okay I can see this question. This was the only group to ever ask this. I answered honestly, yes I do. I detailed that I only smoke outside as it is one thing to hurt myself, but I will never do that to my son or pets. They would not place an indoor only cat with me because I smoke outdoors.
- I was denied by another group because I have a child under the age of 10. My son is 9 years old and has been around pets since the day he came home from the hospital. He is gentle and respectful of them. He understands they are our charges and our responsibilities. Pets teach children to love and respect animals. I understand not putting a fragile dog with hyper toddler, yet there has to be some leeway to these rules.
- Too many animals was another reason for denial. I TOTALLY get the fear of animal hoarders. Too most people my 3 dogs and 4 cats seems like a lot. Because these are my family members and what I love and enjoy, it is not too much for me. I am perfectly aware of my limitations with both money and time. Every person is different, for some 2 pets is more than they can handle, for others it’s 10 pets. As long as all the animals are happy, healthy, well taken care of and the home is clean there shouldn’t be an arbitrary number for how many pets is too many. This denial came from a one person foster group that maintained 14 cats in her home.
- The last denial really bothered me. This person even came to my home for an inspection after going through adoption paperwork, phone interviews and checking all my references. She informed me that my home was wonderful. The pets were extremely healthy and everything was perfect. The problem (she informed me) was that she is looking for a home “better than her own” for this cat. Having dogs was the drawback. The cat was not scared or vicious to dogs, she just wanted the “perfect” home and my two elderly dogs were too large. Interestingly, my 3 dogs are scared of the cats and she saw this in action. What I found out later is that certain groups are looking for the “perfect” foster home and have a record of never actually adopting out their charges.
After having worked with too many foster groups in a short period I found one that words can’t describe. I will try. They are amazing and truly are looking out for the animals’ best interests. They are doing what all foster groups do, in that they are trying to place the animals in “furever” homes. The difference is they are truly working at getting these pets into their “furever” homes so that they can move onto saving the next one. They have their own process of course; application, background check, meet and greet, etc. The application was similar to most and not as intrusive as some. The background check was interesting and very welcome once I understood it. They are not running a credit check or anything strange. They are running a criminal check. This is a wonderful concept. They are ensuring the animal is not going to a home with a history of animal abuse and in my opinion they are ensuring that when these people visit the foster family they are safe to do so. This protects everyone and is a very intelligent thing.
Many moons ago I lamented on the fate of feral cats and wondered why we couldn’t trap/spay/neuter and adopt them out to farms as barn cats. Having had horses as a child I know that where you have feed you have rodents. Lo and behold, this is part of what Pawsitive Karma does! Imagine my delight to know they are not worried about fostering the special breeds, highly adoptable cats only, they are mainly concerned with those that are a little more difficult to place yet still highly valuable creatures. I have to say I also love the name of the group. Who isn’t looking for a little “Pawsitive Karma” in their life? The name brings up thoughts that by adding a family member you are doing something to positively impact that animal’s life and allowing the group to foster yet another cat, which will impact his life as well. One small addition to your family has affected many other lives and creates an ongoing line of positive karma.
The cat I adopted from Pawsitive Karma has had his share of health issues, none of which Pawsitive Karma could have realized would happen. They ensured he was healed and fully on the road to recovery before allowing me to pick him up. We had no idea his infection would come back or that there was possible soft tissue damage that couldn’t be seen at the time they were healing his leg. The group (especially the foster mom) has been extremely supportive throughout it all. I didn’t just get a new family member, but an extended family that is ready to assist at a moment’s notice.
All of this is NOT meant to deter anyone from using a foster group or to detract from the amazing work all foster groups do. I believe in the work foster groups do and prefer them over shelters as they are more aware of the individual animal’s temperament and if it will mesh well with my existing furry family. By using foster groups I have yet to have two animals that can’t get along. These are merely my experiences and a warning that not all foster groups are created equal. There is no question that anyone involved in fostering loves animals and they have an intense desire to help. The difference is some groups truly put the animals ahead of their own agendas, emotional response or arbitrary rules. Everything you go through when trying to adopt is important to ensure the best fit for an animal; from application questions, reference checks, even home visits or background checks. All of these allow the animals to go to a safe home that is a right fit. Remember though, when you are going through all of this you should do the same. Check out the foster group, ensure they are a right fit for you. Do not let a denial by one foster group stop you from finding an addition to your family if you are willing to take on the responsibility of a creature that can’t speak for itself for hopefully 20+ years.
A word of caution to foster groups, don’t forget why you are doing this. It is thankless work at times, but as anyone that has worked with animals knows, it is always worth the effort. Don’t forget that you are doing this for the animals. No home is perfect, no situation may be perfect on paper but in a pet’s life the imperfections don’t matter much. The child that is 8 instead of 10 may become the dog’s best friend. The person that smokes outside may spend more on her animal’s healthcare than her own. The woman that has 10 pets may have the healthiest pets you have ever met and the cleanest home. Remember why you started fostering, find the animal the best home available at the time they need it. Don’t allow an animal to languish for years without that “perfect” home that may never come. Find the best possible match and then work towards saving another creature that is unable to speak for itself. This is why you got into fostering/saving animals. The humans may not thank you, but the animals always do with a look or a lick.
I for one have had some not so great experiences recently, but I did not give up and I did not hold it against these groups. They are trying their best, but sometimes I feel they need a wake-up call.
By Laura Harding