CHENANGO COUNTY — The Chenango SPCA is looking for foster families to care for dogs and cats of all ages as they see intake numbers grow with the arrival of kitten season.
SPCA Executive Director Patrick McLaughlin said the number of animals in the shelter's care can as much as triple each year from April to October, which only heightens the need for animal foster families.
Foster families for shelter animals can not only help offset the workload for SPCA staff, but also give animals a chance to live in a home environment while they await adoption.
"That provides an opportunity to live in a home environment as opposed to the shelter environment. If everything is okay medically, it might provide them an opportunity to live with other animals, although that requires careful attention, and perhaps most importantly it allows them to live with humans on a daily basis as opposed to the somewhat shorter interaction times that we can provide here at the shelter," McLaughlin explained.
Although most foster animals are young, McLaughlin said dogs and cats of all ages could potentially be eligible for foster care.
"Most of our foster animals are young: either puppies or kittens. But that’s not to say that’s an exclusive thing," he said. "We often will try to put puppies and kittens into foster care specifically because we don’t want them to get too used to the shelter environment. We are also willing and able to put adults into foster care."
Foster families who take in an animal may have them for a short time, for a long-term stay, or potentially in a foster-to-adopt situation, which McLaughlin said gives a family the time to get well acquainted with the animal and determine if adopting them will be a good fit.
Those interested in fostering dogs and cats from the Chenango SPCA can apply to be a foster family online at ChenangoSPCA.org/foster. Application questions include name and address, current pets, veterinarian information, household members, location in the home where foster animals will be kept, if applicable, and experience caring for young cats or dogs, among others.
Approved foster families will be provided supplies to care for the animal by the SPCA, including items such as food and water dishes, dog or cat food, toys, and a litter box if the foster animal is a cat.
McLaughlin said foster animals will also need to be returned to the shelter for any medical check ups or spaying and neutering surgeries, if needed.
While prior experience caring for a foster animal is not necessary, McLaughlin said they do keep an eye out for applicants with prior experience caring for sick or young animals.
"A lot of the animals that we put into foster care, because they’re either young or sometimes they’re sick, sometimes they’re both, we’re kind of most excited about foster families who have experience with that kind of animal," said McLaughlin.
"Sometimes we’ll have a whole litter of kittens, for instance, and we want to keep them together. So somebody who's comfortable and has experience raising five or six kittens together and really nurturing them from a very young age," he continued. "Usually the case is that they don’t have a mother, so we’re looking for people who can bottle feed, who kind of know what to look out for in terms of medical progress."
The type and age of the animal placed into a specific foster home will be left to the discretion of the family and the SPCA.
"We have to weigh the circumstances regarding how many people are in the home, how many other animals are in the home, and sometimes just the size of the home, depending on what kind of animal we’re looking to put into foster care," said McLaughlin. "We might want them to have an isolated area, and so if a family wants to take in a litter of kittens but they can’t keep them separate from their own animals, that might be too much of a medical risk and so we would say, well, maybe you can wait until we have a different situation that you can help us with."
He added that taking in foster animals does not have to be an ongoing commitment. Families may opt to foster an animal once, or take in fosters repeatedly. Those interested in continuing to foster shelter animals after their first experience will be updated on potential future fosters.
McLaughlin anticipates the need for foster families will only increase over the next six months as kitten season continues, and encourages those interested in fostering to apply.
"We deeply appreciate people's willingness to help us raise our animals, so we are also very attentive to working with the families that are interested in that opportunity," said McLaughlin.
"[It] can be an emotional thing, you know? You develop a bond with an animal that may not be in the best of medical situations and oftentimes it can’t stay with you permanently for one reason or another," he added. "But there are people who have the heart to do it, and it’s an important thing."
More information on the Chenango SPCA and fostering and volunteering opportunities can be found at ChenangoSPCA.org or on the Chenango SPCA Facebook page.