The good, Bad and Ugly Regarding Dog Fostering

By Lisa Frost

I have been a foster dog guardian in Jackson County since 2011.  Since that time, I (with my husband’s assistance) have fostered for approximately 20 dogs (including whelping and bottle feeding 10 pups).

The most challenging part of fostering dogs is letting go once an optimal home is found.  “Good enough” homes just never cut it for us after all the efforts we would put into rehabilitating a shelter dog, often from an abusive or neglectful situation.  Many of the fosters we’ve taken in had been previously returned to the shelter several times for being “too high energy,” or “owners moving,” or “ran away too many times,” or “too prey driven,” or “people aggressive,” “jumpy,” or  they were simply too “kennel stressed” at the shelter to be adoptable.  Several of the dogs we’ve fostered were found as strays.  All the dogs we’ve fostered found loving homes, though many potential homes were rejected for simply being ill-equipped for taking on the particular dog.

Most recently, a foster we took on this summer, an 8 month old, had already been returned 3 times since 8 weeks old for being “too high energy and jumpy.”   One return was only after one day after adoption!

During this foster tenure, a man submitted his application to the Jackson County Animal Shelter to adopt this pup, never having owned a dog. He worked full-time and could not bring the dog with him to work, a common story.  The main problem however was that he had no dog experience, never owning a dog, but professed to be learning dog training skills solely through watching You Tube Videos and that he would be obtaining a dog house for the yard.

The enthusiasm for adopting his first dog, and a shelter dog, was gratifying and encouraged.  We put much thought into this potential adoption for our foster pup, but the fact he did not show up after his 24 hour hold on the dog coupled with his lack of experience for an exuberant teenager pup, returned several times, brought us to the conclusion that this was not the optimal guardian for the pup.

I have screened potential adoptees in the past and never had problems with the shelter for doing so.  All of my adoptee guardians have kept in touch over the years via email or Facebook with how their dogs are doing and how happy they are, as the adoptions were clearly matched well.

However, this time, I was met with discontent and rank-pulling by the Shelter Director, Barbara Talbert, who insisted on giving these new adoptees “a chance.”  We anticipated return number four.  Many adoptions and returns on a young sentient soul create distrust due to inconsistency, and we were just beginning to get this pup settled.  We were convinced this potential adoptee was ill equipped for the energy and lack of training this pup teenager presented.  Nonetheless, Ms. Talbert continued to push me to the wall, saying she wants me available to continue to foster more dogs!  I told her with this practice of simply allowing a dog to be adopted out to a “good enough” home, I would never foster again with Jackson County Animal Shelter.

The greatest satisfaction in fostering a shelter animal is having the choice in finding an optimal home.  A foster parent puts in the time, sweat and money into rehabilitating a shelter hound.  To have this minimized to “move the numbers” in finding “good enough” homes, which is the Shelter’s philosophy, is demeaning and insulting.

In desperation, I wrote a letter to the potential adoptee, having the address on the application provided by the Shelter.  I reiterated our conversation including my reservations, but encouraged him to apply for another shelter dog. I was told by Jackson Baures, Talbert’s superior, that the man withdrew his application due to my letter.

I was then sent a formal USPS letter by FOTAS president, Peggy Moore terminating my position as a volunteer with FOTAS (Friends of the Animal Shelter, volunteer organization affiliated with the Shelter).

By the way, we adopted the pup, despite the fact Ms. Talbert initially refused our application, saying “I will not allow you to adopt this dog.”  Somehow, the leadership here needs to be reevaluated and maybe a changing of the guard is in order.  Insulting and terminating volunteers, usurping foster parent choice in adoptees and disallowing a foster guardian to adopt their own foster dog just seems counter-productive.

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