I have seen several rescue organizations that have said they are looking for fosters. I know that there may be specifics for some organizations but I am really just wanting to know what in general are the expectations of a person fostering pets, and what is required of them.

I want to make sure that I know what I'm getting into before I offer to foster dog; if there's a certain time commitment I'll have to make, if there will be certain expenses I'll be expected to cover, or if I'll be able to choose what breed or age that will be assigned to me or if it's randomly assigned.

What are the expectations and requirements of a person who is fostering pets?


2 Answers 2



The first thing to realise is that any pet you rescue has likely been neglected and possibly abused. This can lead to some short and long term behavior issues. It is the foster's job to help the pet recover. We may have been lucky, but it has taken us a few weeks of extra work and attention to get them on the road to becoming a good pet.

It's also usually your job to get the pet to and from vet visits, adoption events, and meetings with potential adopters. You do not necessarily need to do this yourself, but if not, then you need to coordinate and arrange for someone else to take care of the transport. For us this is the part that causes the most problems. Everything else can be worked in on our time but these appointments are often some one else's.


This will vary by rescue organization but for the most part the expenses, especially the vet bills will be covered by the rescue organization. That said, most rescue organization's funds are limited, so the more you use of those funds, the less that are available to help rescue other dogs. This means if you can provide for most of the needs of the pets you foster (food, bedding, crates, etc) without needing to rely on the rescue, then you will have more opportunities to rescue.

However there are many people who are very generous and appreciate the work that we do and like to be able to do what they can to help. That can range from donations of toys, beds, and food to cash gifts. We see quite a few more of those when we do adoption events than otherwise. We also have a wish list set up for items that we go through a lot, so that people who want to help can. I suspect with some effort and a little bit of Facebook begging we could make it so that our cash output was minimized. But I suspect that would take some time to get there, and then quite a bit of effort to maintain that. It is probably far better to just rescue as you can afford without any subsidy and look at any gifts as a blessing.

One other benefit is that many rescue organizations are registered nonprofits, and any costs associated with your rescues are tax deductible, so save your receipts.

How do rescue animals get assigned?

Most rescues work by pulling animals from kill shelters that are scheduled to be destroyed, or that are asking for rescue help. Occasionally the rescue will contact us to ask if we can help with a specific animal, but mostly our animals come from people contacting us on Facebook, or us seeing Facebook posts of some shelters that we have a great relationship with. Relationships play a huge part in the ability to rescue and to get the animals transported from distant shelters to you.

Puppies are much easier to get adopted out than older dogs. So if you save an older dog, prepare to have them around for a year or more. It is also harder to correct behavior issue with older dogs than puppies. But mostly, once you develop some relationships with shelters you can get heads up on which dogs are the best candidates for rehabilitation. Also, shelters know that there are limited rescue resources, and the last thing they want to do is burn out one or more of those resources by pushing out animals that have little to no hope of ever being a good pet. Most of the pleadings are for dogs that most of what they need is food, shelter, and love.

Other things you should know

The greatest expectation of a rescuer is that when you choose to rescue an animal you are committing to help rehabilitate and provide a home for that animal until it can be placed elsewhere. Not all animals have the same needs. Some will be easier to get ready to adopt than others, and some will get adopted quicker than others. Getting them adopted also means keeping them visible to potential adopters. This means attending adoption events, updating their profile on sites like Petfinder, and marketing them around to other online sites and Facebook groups.

Once you have a potential pet parent it is often your responsibility to make sure that the person adopting is someone who will be able to meet the needs of your foster pet and are going to be the type of pet parent that will be a good match with the pet. Someone who wants a wallflower dog is not a good match for a highly active puppy, and vice versa.

One of the hardest things to realize is there are far more dogs needing rescue than there are rescuers. However, you are not the only rescuer. So if you submit a request to rescue an animal but another rescue gets it, remember that the important thing is that the animal gets to live and be loved. There will be plenty of others and times where your heart breaks as you have to let one go by because you are at your limit.

The second hardest thing is to let go. On average we spend 5-6 weeks getting puppies from the point where they were rescued to being adopted. It can be really hard to let them go. But in the end you just have to remind yourself that this was the goal and that now you can save another life.


Critters has some very good information in their answer. But their answer is coming from the perspective of "The first thing to realise is that any pet you rescue has likely been neglected and possibly abused.", and for those animals the answer is spot on.

There is also a large population of pets that need fostering, that have not been abused or neglected. One of the organizations I work with is an open door shelter (related What is the difference between "Open Door" and "Limited Access" shelter policies? ) The majority of the pets that I see come in are brought by people who love them, and life events force a separation.

As Critters points out in their answer, cost's associated with being a foster parent to a pet are generally covered by the organization. But those dollars come from donations, so personally we cover all expenses except vet bills out of our pocket when fostering.

Baby Care

Pets often come in pregnant, just having given birth, occasionally newborns without a mother come in. A shelter facility is not the place to raise a baby anything. Foster parents are always needed to provide care for babies or babies and moms. Volunteers fostering babies should expect to get called on short notice to care for a litter. Duties vary by species but focus around loving care, and hygiene. Volunteers willing to do hourly bottle feeding, should make this desire known to the volunteer coordinator.


Everyone gets sick occasionally, and the nature of Shelter & Rescues mean they see a lot of sick animals. Pets with injuries may require dressing changes. Any sick or injured pet may require medication administration. If you have a desire to learn, the organization will often teach you how to perform these tasks.

Some pets will have communicable illness like Kennel Cough (most of the time it is not a serious condition, and most dogs will recover without treatment.) but they need to be separated from other dogs while recovering.

Most organizations (and common sense) will require you keep foster pets separated from your personal pet family. In some cases you may need an other wise pet free home and/or a home that does not have pets of the same species. Being a health foster parent, may involve calls at night or on the weekend to take in or care for the pet.


Some otherwise perfectly adoptable pets may not have acquired all the social skills they need to be adoptable. The range of behavior changes needed is wide, behavior is the number one, non-species specific tag on Pets.SE. Tell the foster coordinator what socialization issues you would like to work with and they will find you a pet to work with.

Cage break

Contrary to some negative propaganda, being an open door shelter does not mean there is an adopt or die deadline. When there are lot of potential pets to adopt sometimes one pet does not find it's new home as quickly as others. The best chance of adoption occurs while the pet is onsite and available to be found, but living for months in a shelter cage is difficult. This is particularly true for pets with less demand that cats or dogs. Duties are similar to socialization, but there is generally scheduled take them home and bring them back dates.

Space Issues

Open Door shelters and rescues by their nature are willing to take pets regardless of how many cages they have available. Different species of pets have different times when more pets are coming in then are being adopted. Often a short term solution can be found in the shelter but there is a need to for the pets to be in foster for some time, duties are similar to socialization.

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