In our age of digital everything, parents are often desperate for ideas for activities that will tear their kids’ attention away from their electronics. One great option may be as close as the nearest animal shelter or rescue.
Animal welfare organizations are constantly in need of individuals and families to foster pets. Fostering is essentially caring for a pet in your home temporarily until a forever home is found for the pet. All types of pets need fostering, from dogs and cats, to puppies and kittens to rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and more.
And fostering literally saves animals’ lives. There are an estimated 1.5 million pets unnecessarily euthanized in shelters in the United States each year (source: ASPCA). According to the Petco Foundation, if just two percent of pet-owning households in the U.S. would foster one pet a year, the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable pets could become a thing of the past.
Fostering pets is an activity an increasing number of families have found to be a great activity that benefits both the pets and the kids. Some families foster for a few days, and some for a few months, depending on the family’s schedule. And, most organizations pay for supplies and veterinary care for the pet.
Here are a few reasons why fostering is a great option for families with kids:
Contributing to the Greater Good
While some parents may worry their kids will get too attached to a foster pet and not want to give them up, it’s all about positioning, says Caroline Golon, whose family fosters several litters of kittens every summer. “Of course we want to keep them all! But we go into a foster situation talking a lot about how important of a job we have to do – to prepare the kittens for their forever families – and by letting them go to families who will love them, we’re doing the best thing for animals in general because then we can help more kittens. My daughters, who are 8 & 10, embraced that concept and it’s worked well for us.”
Warm and Fuzzy Companionship
Because activities with screens have infiltrated our every day lives in nearly every way, caring for animals is the quintessential break from those glowing screens. Dogs need to be walked, cats need to be played with, and pet-related chores require hands on focus. And don’t forget about the furry snuggles! Talk about the polar opposite of cold, hard electronics!
A Job to Do
Kids of all ages can gain experience and learn responsibility while caring for foster pets. From giving them a loving, safe home, to taking care of feeding, watering and walking or scooping litter boxes, caring for a pet is a bit of work.
But even beyond the daily “chores,” much of what families with kids can bring to fostering is the opportunity to socialize the animals and learn about them so they can land in the perfect home. Pets, no matter what age, benefit from being around kids so the foster family can report to potential adopters how the animal’s temperament is. Socialization is one of the big things kids bring to the equation. If a pet thrives on lots of attention from children, that’s a great thing to know. Timid pets can come out of their shell around kids. On the flip side, pets that don’t enjoy attention from kids can be adopted into a home without children. Animal welfare organizations learn so much about the animal and what’s best for him or her by having families foster.
With many high schools across the nation requiring service hours from their students, parents are constantly helping their kids look for volunteer opportunities that qualify. Nancy Fay of San Antonio, Texas was shocked when she discovered the time her daughter had spent fostering numerous pets for the City of San Antonio Animal Care Services would translate to service hours. “I was so surprised and excited to learn that fostering counted towards service hours. I’ve been spreading the word because it’s such a great experience for the kids and so critical for the animals,” she said. Fay’s daughter ended up with 2,000 service hours for the fostering she had done over a span of several years.
Broward County Animal Shelter in Fort Lauderdale, Florida specifically recruits teens to care for kittens and puppies that are too young for shelter life, according to the Sun Sentinel. Broward High has mandatory 40 hours of service hours required for students to graduate. The shelter gives the students everything they need to foster. Fostering a pet for just two weeks can earn the student their required number of hours. Of course, parental permission is required for the job, but students are expected to do the care.
Fostering is an easy way to make an impact on animal welfare in our country. Families interested in learning more about fostering can visit participating Petco stores across the nation on June 29 from 1:30 – 3:30 to speak with local organizations and experienced foster families and even sign up to be a foster family. Visit www.petcofoundation.org/lifesaver to find a participating Petco near you.