Category: Pet Welfare

Fostering Pets Is a Win for Everyone

Pet foster programs are on the rise, and why not?  Fostering pets is a win for everyone.  Here are some reasons why you should consider becoming a pet foster parent.

Experience all the love without long-term commitment

I have heard too often from people who have recently lost pets that they will not replace their beloved friend.  For some people, the grief associated with losing a companion of many years outweighs the joy they share with their pets while they are alive.  Fostering provides a great solution for these people, who otherwise would miss out on the benefits of pet parenting.  The foster relationship is meant to be temporary, and knowing that at the outset can help prevent grief when the foster pet is adopted to a forever home.  Plus, the anticipation of bringing in and getting to know a new foster pet can also help ease the pain.

Fostering is perfect for those who may not want to commit long-term to a pet due to life circumstances.  Those whose work requires extended business travel or frequent moves and those anticipating a major life change may find that fostering provides a way to enjoy a pet for the short term.   Fostering is a great solution for those who are older and fear making a long-term commitment to a pet for health or other reasons.

A word of caution: fostering is probably not the solution for those who are on the fence about pet ownership.  Pets that are fostered may have special needs for attention and training that only a truly dedicated foster parent can provide.  Fostering should not be viewed as a rent to own program.  It’s a serious, if short-term, commitment.

Increase adoptions

Pets that aren’t adopted quickly from the shelter may need a loving foster home to help them shine.  Whether there are behavior issues that must be addressed, or simply a need for affection and confidence, these pets may become more adoptable after they are fostered.  Foster parents have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of these pets.

Free up space in shelters

Shelters struggle to find places for all the pets that need help. Fostering pets reduces stocking pressure and provides homeless pets with a safe and nurturing environment while they wait to be adopted.  In extreme cases, fostering a dog that otherwise may not find a place in a shelter can prevent euthanasia. Some rescue organizations work solely through fostering.  This practice eliminates land, building, and maintenance costs.  Donations may go farther when the costs of sheltering and feeding a pet are assumed by foster parents rather than a centralized shelter.

Build community

Most rescue organizations provide training and support for foster parents.  Foster parents often build rich and lasting friendships through local networks.  And foster parents build the community of pet owners by helping a loving family adopt a new pet.  Parents of a foster animal often keep in touch with the forever family and provide additional support.

Are you a foster parent?  Comment below and share your story!

photo credit: Yvonne Kubo

Don’t Move to the Suburbs to Please Your Pet. City Dogs May Be Happier.

Millennials are buying suburban houses to please their pets. But does the change in lifestyle really benefit their dogs?  Probably not. Here’s why city dogs may be happier.

According to a recent report in Time, millennials are leaving cities to buy homes in the suburbs because of their dogs.  There’s a perceived benefit to larger homes and big yards. But the benefit may be more about convenience for the humans than happiness for the dogs.  We have kept dogs in rural, suburban, and city environments.  Here are four reasons we think our dogs are happier in the city.

1. The walkies

Walks are the number one reason city dogs may be happier.  As apartment dwellers, we spend more time walking our dogs each day than we ever did in the suburbs.  This means not only more exercise for all of us, but more time spent interacting with our dogs.  Walkies are mandatory, and the dogs allow no procrastination.   In addition to quick trips down to the dog park for sanitary purposes and play, we also make several long walks around the city each week.

Although suburban areas may boast more dedicated walking trails, neighborhoods within cities are often better connected by sidewalks and other pedestrian ways.  From our front door, we can walk for miles in almost any direction and never leave the sidewalk.  Public green spaces and dog parks are concentrated into a smaller area and are more accessible by foot in urban areas.  Unlike the suburbs, cities offer diverse sights and experiences for both pets and people.

Dogs walked in crowded urban spaces often require more training and better leash skills than their suburban counterparts.  Dogs enjoy learning and need to be challenged throughout their lives.  Daily walks provide a time for reinforcing leash training and building a stronger human/dog bond.

2. The dog-friendly spaces

There are more dog-friendly public spaces within walking distance in the city.  City dogs enjoy spending more time with their parents on the patio at local coffee shops, bars, and restaurants.  Most dog-friendly eateries offer fresh water for pets, and many provide treats for their canine patrons, too.

3. The socialization

City dogs get more socialization opportunities than suburban dogs.  Dog parks are increasingly offered as an amenity in rental communities.  We are among the growing number of renters with access to a private dog park.  As a result, our dogs interact with other dogs every day.  And because city dwellers generally have smaller homes and must be more conscious about separation-related behavior issues, city dogs are more likely to go to day care when their parents are away.

4. The tribe

Most city dogs end up with their own tribe of ardent fans.  Our dog Wesley is a crowd pleaser wherever he goes, and he thrives on the attention.  It’s safe to say that social dogs like Wesley get a lot of pleasure from interacting with a variety of people.  When handled appropriately, the increased exposure to many different people can help shy dogs become more tolerant and confident.

Does a Yard Really Make a Dog Happier?

The biggest downside for the city dweller is not having access to a yard.  Having a yard is undeniably much more convenient for dog parents.  There’s no need to rush outside with the dog in freezing weather or rain, and walks can be scheduled at the parent’s convenience, instead of through necessity.  However, the benefit of a yard to dogs is not as clear.

Having a yard means that a dog can go outside more frequently during the day.  Going outside more frequently doesn’t necessarily mean that a dog will get more beneficial exercise, especially if his owners forego regular walks.   Remember that dogs left to their own devices spend only about five minutes a day running and 68 minutes a day walking.  The majority of your dog’s day is spent sleeping or resting (about 19.4 hours), whether inside or out.

Giving a dog unsupervised access to a yard may lead to some unpleasant surprises.  The dog may dig or bark at passersby.  Even worse, the dog may get out of the yard and wander off.  Although there isn’t good data available, it seems more likely that a dog let out into the yard is more likely to escape than a city dog that is walked on a leash.

Your dog can be happy whether you choose to live in the city or in the suburbs.  It’s a mistake to think that suburban life on its own, will make your dog happier.  What is important is that you spend quality time with your dog every day.

What do you think?  Are you looking to move out of the city?  Are you living in the city and loving it?  Or are you and your dog sitting pretty in a suburban home?  Comment below to share your story.




Strategies for Successful Pet Adoptions

In the recent post When A Pet Must Go, we discussed resources and alternatives to shelters that are available to pet parents who are struggling with their pets. Today, we will look at ways to make sure pet adoptions match the right pets to the best homes.  Two very different adoptions demonstrate what works and what to avoid when you are looking for a new pet.


Last year a friend of mine rescued a shelter dog. Like many potential adopters, he scouted local shelter dogs online.  He fell in love with Seamus, a dog who looked like the perfect friend.  He and his partner went to the shelter, met Seamus, and took him home the same day.  Sadly, within two months of his adoption this boisterous, large-breed dog had to be rehomed. What went wrong?  How did a conscientious and exuberant adopter end up with a dog he couldn’t keep?  I spoke with my friend last week about his experience and the lessons he learned.

In December of 2016, my friend and his partner had just moved into a new home together.  They were looking for a dog to join their family.  They had set their sights on Seamus after viewing his photo online, and the shelter didn’t provide much history.  My friend knew only that Seamus was about 1.5 years old and that he had been on the streets for a while before coming to the shelter.  Seamus was recently neutered.  The shelter did not discuss the dog’s temperament or talk about the sort of home that would be best for him.

At home, Seamus was rowdy, and it was clear to my friend that he had not been properly socialized.  He was destructive when left alone.  My friend worked from home a couple of weeks in order to spend time with Seamus and acclimate him to his new home.  However, the behavior problems persisted, and Seamus ultimately became aggressive to my friend’s partner.  Fortunately, my friend was able to quickly rehome Seamus with a relative.  Seamus currently has plenty of space to work out his high energy, and he is doing well.

Sir Miles

Ultimately, my friend was able to adopt a dog suited to his lifestyle and personality. The lessons he learned from his experience with Seamus helped him approach this adoption very differently.  He and his partner looked at several different dogs, and they took their time to make a decision.  When they found Sir Miles, they visited him on multiple occasions at his foster home.  They even brought him to their home to see how he reacted.  His background was appropriate for the family.  He had been an owned dog, but his owner had to give him up because he was not able to spend enough time with him.  Sir Miles settled into his new home well, and he is a much-loved family member.  My friend has even met his former owner via social media and shares updates about Sir Miles with him.

The role of the shelter

One of the most important lessons my friend learned from his adoption of Seamus is that not every pet is right for every household. A good shelter will work with adopters to help them understand what breed or type of pet is best for them.  I spoke with Ms. Casey Waugh from Wayside Waifs to find out how her organization helps create adoption successes.  At Wayside Waifs, successful pet adoptions begin with intake of the animal.  The shelter collects information about every animal surrendered.  A behavioral team assesses and works with the animals.  There is even a running club that allows volunteers to run with dogs and assess whether they will make good running partners.  Adoption counselors use information about the adopting family and information about the animals in the shelter to make recommendations for adoption.  The group contacts landlords directly to ensure that renters will be able to keep their pet.

Potential adopters are encouraged to spend time with the pets at the shelter.  Those looking to adopt animals that have been in the shelter for a longer period of time may take the dogs home for a “Slumber Pawty,”  generally 7-days or less.  This helps ensure that the pet is a good fit in the home.  Finally, adoption counselors follow up on every adoption to identify and solve any developing problems.

Checklist for successful adoption

  1. Plan for adoption and don’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment.  Rushing to pick a new pet can lead to an emotional choice.
  2. Be realistic about your needs and abilities.  You may feel very compassionate and want to rescue a pet with behavior problems.  If you don’t have the experience or temperament to train or the budget to hire a trainer you and your new pet will not be happy.
  3. Be open with the shelter about your lifestyle.  The shelter will make better recommendations if they understand your needs.  If you don’t have a lot of time to spend with a new pet, be clear about that up front.
  4. Look at more than one potential pet and take the time to learn about their backgrounds.
  5. Spend time with the pet, in your home if possible.
  6. Stay in touch with the shelter and ask for help if you encounter problems.
pet adoptions, dog,dogs, cat, cats, sheoter
Six tips for successful pet adoptions

featured image: AdobeSpark

When a Pet Must Go

Whatever the reason for relinquishment, it is almost always heartbreaking when a pet must go.  Add in the stigma and guilt that often accompanies the choice to give up a pet, and the situation can easily become a nightmare for the pet and the family.  The good news is that there are alternatives to giving your pet up to a shelter, and plenty of resources to help you through this difficult situation if you know where to find them.

Get help from a local shelter

As a first step if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t keep one of your pets, reach out to a local shelter.  Many shelters have special programs to help keep pets with their families, or they can direct you to other organizations as needed.  Often, there are free or low-cost ways to help you overcome a problem with your pet.  Shelter websites may link you directly to resources for your problem.

We talked to Casey Waugh, Communications Director for Wayside Waifs to learn more about the ways shelters can help.  Before the shelter takes an animal in, staff make every effort to keep the pet with the family.  At Wayside Waifs, staff don’t ever want a pet to feel like a burden to his pet parents.  The organization maintains a pet food pantry to help struggling families feed their pets, because staff never want a family to lose a pet due to the inability to afford food.  If the pet needs to be spayed or neutered, Wayside Waifs will point the family to low-cost or free veterinary care.

The shelter has a behavioral team that offers consultations for pets exhibiting some types of behavioral issues such as house soiling or aggression.  In some cases, the team may even make a home visit.

Use social media

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your pet, you may be able to successfully rehome her.  Reach out through social media. Creating a great bio can help you inform potential adopters about your pet’s history and highlight her personality.  The San Diego Humane Society has a fantastic rehoming kit that includes a template for your pet’s bio. Be sure to include a photo.  It can be intimidating to admit to your contacts that you need to rehome your pet.  But finding a great new home for her will be worth the effort.

List your pet with a breed-specific rescue group

Breed-specific rescue groups can match your pet with potential adopters.  These groups reach people with an interest in your pet’s breed.  These adopters are often well-acquainted with breed-specific issues and are prepared for challenges.

Surrender to a quality shelter

It isn’t always possible to rehome a pet on your own.  In those cases, a quality shelter with a reputation for compassionate animal care is the best option.  Most shelters will help you through the process. At Wayside Waifs, for example, you will be asked to complete a detailed application.  Information you provide about your pet will allow the shelter to provide the best care and to find the best new parents for your pet.  You may be asked to pay a nominal surrender fee.  These fees help care for your pet while she is in the shelter.

The shelter may not be able to take your pet right away, but be sure to talk to them if you are absolutely unable to keep the animal.  Some shelters work with foster families on a case by case basis to provide care in special circumstances. If for any reason your pet doesn’t qualify for surrender at a particular shelter, staff should help you find alternatives.

Jake, a success story

“If you don’t take him, I’m going to shoot him.” That’s how Jake, a 13-14 year old Golden Retriever who had been living outside on a farm, came to Wayside Waifs.  In this case, although there was no room in the shelter, Wayside Waifs made a place for him.  Jake was eventually adopted by one of the staff and enjoyed a very useful and happy life as a therapy dog with a great home. Sometimes, rehoming really is the best option.

This topic will be continued next week in a special post comparing two different adoptions.  We’ll discuss the ways that pet parents and shelters can approach the adoption process in order to prevent the need to rehome.

Jake, wayside waifs, when a pet must go, dog, dogs, rehoming, surrender, relinquishment,
His owner was going to shoot him, but Jake was successfully rehomed by Wayside Waifs.  Photo courtesy of Wayside Waifs.