Animal Fostering: What is it?

By Jillian Trainor
Jan. 30, 2014

Peter Murphy is a foster parent.

He’s currently fostering Murphy, the pit bull.

“It fills a hole in your life. I didn’t realize how empty my life was until this big lummox wandered in and took up residence in my life.”

Murphy has been fostering Murphy for a few weeks.

“He’ll come in and check on us, like two o’clock in the morning. He’ll come, like, ‘click, click, click’ in, and check to make sure we’re ok, and then he’ll come back out here and crash on the couch. Around four o’clock he’ll try to climb into the bed, and that’s a bit of a wrestling match, because he’s no small dog.”

When animals come to a shelter, sometimes they need a little extra care before they can be adopted. In cases like these, animals will be fostered.

Lesa Donnelly of the P.E.I. Humane Society explains how their fostering program came about.

“A number of years ago, we had some pets that were coming into the shelter that either needed further rehabilitation at home, or they were younger pets, but healthy, that we could not vaccinate. So we thought ‘Other shelters do it, so let’s try a fostering program’.”

The Humane Society currently has about 70 volunteers, and Donnelly stresses the importance of these volunteers.

These volunteers are important because if animals come in to the shelter, they could be healthy, but might be a little underweight. Kittens have to be at least two pounds in order to be spayed or neutered, she said.

“If they’re under the two pounds, but otherwise healthy, there’s no reason why they can’t go into foster care and get some love and attention and gain some weight. We could have dogs come in or cats come in that are pregnant. We do need them to be nursed, and we have some great foster parents that are willing to take them on for eight, 10, 12 weeks.”

Sometimes, animals are fostered because they were in an abusive home.

“There’s been a lot of abuse heaped on this poor animal in his six years in life. He’s been chained to things, he’s been left alone. He’s been beat,” said Murphy.

“They tried to make him into a fighting dog. He’s got scars on his face, everything that could happen and still, he answers back with is love and a lick on the face. We could all learn from that.”

Donnelly said occasionally, foster parents wind up adopting the animal they agreed to foster.

“Usually my running joke is ‘Well, you can adopt, but you’ve got to continue fostering for me.’ Some will continue fostering. Other ones though, their lives are not set up to have a pet full-time.”

Donnelly herself has adopted animals she’s fostered.

“I’m not sure totally how many I’ve fostered, but I’ve ended up keeping three that I’ve fostered. Two cats and a dog.”

Murphy, the person, says he would love to adopt Murphy, the dog, but at the moment, it’s an impossibility.

“I would love to give this monster a home. He would eat me out of house and home, but I would have to be working in order to feed him.”

One thing is for sure- when he goes, Murphy the dog will be missed.

“He’s going to take a piece of my heart with him. I believe that your heart has plenty of rooms in it, and some of them are empty because they’re not filled up yet. So there’s a room with a messy couch and a big dog in it. So when he goes, it will just be a messy couch.”