Innovative foster programs place harder to adopt pets in forever homes

Innovative foster programs place harder to adopt pets in forever homes
Because of Squirrly's kidney issues, he's a candidate for the permanent foster program.

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Many shelters and rescues are more selective in the animals they accept in their care, hoping to keep medical costs down. However, shelters like Save-A-Pet give sanctuary to all animals that need their help, no matter how old they are and what health issues they may be facing. For cats and dogs with health issues or some behavioral problems (like shyness or other issues), that could mean that they end up at the shelter for the rest of their lives.

“The traditional foster care program enables us to meet the special needs of the most vulnerable homeless animals - animals that are terminal, ill, pregnant, very young, recovering from surgery or some other medical procedure, elderly or just in need of a second chance,” says Marc Portugal SAP Development director. “We are currently working on expanding and renewing our foster care network to help find homes for some of the animals that are rarely adopted due to age and health issues.”

Because SAP takes in animals with a variety of problems, they’ve come up with some innovative ways to use foster care to help out more animals – permanent fosters, adoptions with incentives and the traditional foster care program.

Permanent foster

“Our permanent foster care program is one way we are able to place some of our older animals or those with health issues,” says Portugal. “Under this program, Save-A-Pet takes on the financial burden of health care so that the animals are in a loving home their final years, but still getting the care they need. Animals are treated by vets that we utilize at our expense.”

Two of animals at the shelter that are candidates for the permanent foster program – Squirrly, a dog with kidney issues, and Thunder Claw, a cat with liver issues.

Adoption with incentives

The adoption with incentives program would give a senior or long-term resident a chance to have a home. Most of these animals don’t have medical issues but are often seniors, may have behavioral issues or could be frequently overlooked because they are timid and shy. Two current candidates are Sunny, a long-term canine resident, and Simpatico, a long-term cat with Stomatitis.

“Save-A-Pet provides yearly vaccinations at our costs (about $25 instead of $100 at most local vet offices),” says Portugal. “Any needed medications, supplements or prescription food can also be ordered by the shelter at cost. This applies only to the conditions existing at the time the cat or dog goes into foster care.”

Traditional foster care program

The traditional foster care program was taxed to the limits more than once this summer as Lake County’s exploding kitten population kept foster families busy. At one point, there were 100 kittens in foster care. SAP is always looking for families to participate in this program.

“On any given day, we are caring for between 300-400 animals,” adds Portugal. “We have room for around 80 dogs in the kennels and also house cats and kittens at the Vernon Hills and Kildeer PetSmart locations. When you consider the number animals we have just waiting for space to open in the shelter, there is a real need for more foster homes.”

Becoming a licensed Save-A-Pet Foster

Anyone interested in becoming a pet foster parent needs to complete a foster application as well as a dog or cat adoption application (for screening and interviewing purposes). There is a $25 fee for your license from the Illinois Department of Agriculture and attend a training course before you take your foster home. A foster committee co-chair is available seven days a week to help with questions or concerns for those who are permanent special needs fosters of those who foster other animals with special medical issues.

Any and all questions may be e mailed to [email protected]

Petfinder has designated September 17 - 25 as "Adopt-A-Less-Adoptable-Pet Week” to help promote the many animals that have a hard time finding a home due to their color, age, illness or other factors. We’ll also use this week to highlight some cool programs developed by shelters to help these animals find a home and to shed some light on this overlooked group – like the foster programs for special needs pets we are featuring today.

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