Times are changing in the world of animal sheltering, and animal welfare organizations worldwide are no longer limiting their services at animal adoptions. Here at the Animal Rescue League (ARL) of Berks County, we understand our organization serves a much larger role in the lives of families and animals in our community. We recognize we must fill the gaps of services offered in the local animal welfare industry by creating individual plans to care for each animal that enters our facility, arranging temporary housing for pets while families go through a time of transition, providing resources for families and pets in need, and so much more. While there would be no such thing as a one-size-fits-all program to meet all of these various needs at the ARL, there is one program that allows us to uniquely care for the individual needs of both families and animals alike: Our foster program.
If you have never heard of a fostering program, the concept is plain and simple. Foster care is when community members take eligible animals from the shelter to live in their homes temporarily. You may be wondering why an animal would be moved from our shelter into a person’s home, and there are many reasons why this method of care may be preferable for a shelter animal. Many animals suffer from high anxiety from being in the shelter, as it is a new (and often times loud) environment that can feel overwhelming. Or an animal may have medical needs that are more ideal to tend to in a home setting where they can receive immediate care for their needs with undivided attention. Perhaps they are older and prefer a relaxed space to decompress in, or maybe a beloved pet needs a temporary home while their family is going through a time of transition. Whatever the reason, it is certain all animals can benefit from being in a foster program.
Fostering has lifesaving impacts. In fact, last year, we saved a dog named Honey thanks to having a foster family to take her just in the nick of time. When we first found Honey, she was emaciated, severely underweight, and nearly close to death. Soon after being rescued, she was placed in a foster home where she would go on to heal and receive the individual care she needed to recover and thrive. It took some time to get her to optimal health – 4 months to be exact – but finally, Honey was healthy and strong, and she was able to enjoy life with extra pep in her step with her new family who adopted her shortly after! Had she been in the shelter, it would have taken her longer to heal and even longer to adopt, and because we care for dozens of animals at a time, she may not have always received the immediate attention she needed during her recovery in our shelter.
There are other situations that result in fostering being an optimal method of care. Such was the case with Jaxson, a cat we received due to new members of the household being severely allergic to him. When he arrived at the shelter, he was very stressed from being in a new environment and was lunging, hissing, and swatting due to his fear. However, once Jaxson was placed in a foster home to alleviate his kennel stress, his behavior shifted almost immediately. No longer was he lunging, hissing, or showing signs of aggression once he was in a quieter, more relaxing environment. In fact, Jaxson opened up around his foster family and became friendly with them within just a few days of being in their care. Many of our staff members did not recognize him when he came back to the shelter for adoption, and it wasn’t soon after he returned that he was adopted by a new family! Without being placed in foster care, Jaxson likely would have struggled to decompress in the shelter environment and express his affectionate personality for his new family.
While both of these stories are eye-opening glimpses into the world of fostering, it is not just the animals who enter foster care who benefit from the program – In fact, all of the animals at our shelter, including animals who have never entered foster care, can benefit from the program. Simply put, a fostered animal is an animal who is not taking up space at the shelter, meaning there is more space for the animals that do enter our facility! Having a little extra space and a calmer environment can make those animals’ stay at the ARL a lot more enjoyable. Extra space also means we have more room for more animals that are in desperate need of help. Being that we are a “no-kill shelter”, meaning we do not humanely euthanize animals for space, the impact this program has on our ability to take in more animals across the county is absolutely critical.
Get involved with fostering at ARL
While we plan to expand our foster program and reach even more animals in Berks County in the long run, we cannot make this happen without the help of community members like you who want to get involved in the program. So far this year, our generous foster families have cared for over 500 animals, and as of now, there are over 150 animals in foster care. With over 300 animals in foster finding new homes this year alone, that is a lot of sweet animals adopted out to loving homes thanks to our amazing foster families! With your help, we are certain we can serve even more animals in our community who require the quality care of a loving foster family.
Joining ARL’s foster program is a simple process. Once you let us know you would like to get involved, we ask that you undergo a short orientation program to make sure you are adequately trained and prepared to foster a shelter animal. Depending on the available animal you choose to foster (yes, the choice is yours!) from a list of animals here at the shelter, there may be more training required so you can meet that animal’s unique needs. After that, you will be ready to start fostering animals with ARL! From there, it is as simple as bringing them home and giving them the care they need to thrive. The best part is, our team is always available around the clock should you have any questions while fostering or need assistance, so there is no need to worry about being left in the dark during your time fostering. Caring for these animals takes a village, and we are here to help you comfortably navigate your journey with your foster animal!
As much as we care for our animals here in the shelter, we know nothing compares to the affection and care they receive in a home. If you would like to get involved and join our foster program, we encourage you to submit a foster application! If you still have some questions, you can learn more about our program by clicking here.