Welcome to the Heritage Humane Society’s foster program!
Why should you foster a pet? Foster “Parents” provide temporary care for cats, kittens, dogs and puppies in their own homes around the Hampton Roads area. Some animals need as little as two weeks of care, while others may need care for up to three months.
Your volunteer contributions allow HHS to continue to save as many animal lives as possible. We THANK YOU for your compassion and commitment and welcome you to our foster family!
Pets are placed into foster care for many reasons. They may be too young, they may be sick or injured, or they may need socialization or training. HHS also sends pets to foster care to help open up kennel space so more pets can be pulled from area shelters.
What to expect when fostering
Fostering animals will require consistent care. You will be responsible for providing a safe and suitable environment for the foster animal, along with food, water, basic training, and of course lots of love and socialization! Fostering pets can be a positive experience for the whole family; however, you must be 18 years or older to be the primary Foster Care Volunteer.
Some fosters will need to be provided with daily medications. You must follow the prescription and protocols given by HHS medical staff.
When vaccines or other boosters are due, you will need to bring the foster pet back to HHS for a booster appointment. The HHS Medical Team will schedule these appointments with you.
The foster experience can last a few days to several weeks, depending on the needs of the pet. If you are going out of town, or you are unable to care for your foster for the total time originally agreed upon, please let the foster coordinator know as soon as possible so other foster arrangements can be made for the pet.
Consider what types of foster cases you can take. Take into account your schedule, lifestyle and animal experience. Are you able to bottle feed kittens every two hours throughout the night? Are you comfortable with an adult dog that needs training?
What does Heritage Humane Society provide?
For canines and felines, the HHS will provide crates, carriers, food bowls, bedding, towels, toys, leash/collar, food (dry and canned), newspaper, puppy pads, litter, litter box/scooper. We will also provide a heating pad, bottles, and milk replacement for very young/bottle babies. The Heritage Humane Society also covers the cost of all medical care, including vaccines, flea prevention, or trips to the vet.
For bunnies and other small pets, HHS will provide medical care when needed. Unfortunately, we do not receive enough in donations to be able to provide food/supplies to small animal fosters.
You, the foster, will need to get paper towels, stain/odor remover, cleaning supplies. We also recommend you have a kitchen scale to weigh small kittens or puppies to keep track of their progress. You will also be responsible for providing your own transportation to the HHS for pick up, booster appointments or any medical appointments. The HHS staff is not able to go to your home to pick up pets or provide any medical care.
Eligible Foster Pets
- Puppies or kittens who are too young or too small for surgery. Pets must be 8 weeks old and weigh at least 2 lbs. before being eligible for surgery. All pets need surgery before they are eligible for adoption!
- Moms with nursing babies
- Pets who are shy and need more socialization and confidence before braving the hustle and bustle of the Adoption Center
- Pets with injuries who are waiting for offsite vet appointments or recovering from surgery. Also, pets who have colds and are waiting to be healthy enough for surgery or adoption
- Pets experiencing shelter stress who need a break from the shelter environment or pets who are showing some behavior issues who need extra training
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I foster if I have my own personal pets at home? YES! but keep in mind there is always a risk of spreading illness between pets. All foster pets that are over 6 weeks old will be up to date on vaccines, dewormer and flea prevention before they leave for foster. Of course, many pets will need booster vaccines (such as young puppies or kittens), and getting a general dewormer is not a guarantee that the pet does not have intestinal parasites! We recommend that your own pets are up to date on vaccinations and that you keep any foster pets separate from your personal pets for at least 14 days to reduce any potential health risks. Speak with your veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions. If you have questions about how to keep your foster pets separated, please ask us before you pick up your foster! We can give you some tips and ideas.
What type of space will be needed for fostering? You will want a designated space in your home that you can easily clean and disinfect. Make sure anything hazardous is removed or out of reach- electrical cords or plants that may be chewed, glass that could be knocked over, strings or small office items or child’s toys that may be eaten. Also, make sure that you assess any hiding places that are small enough for a foster pet to crawl into. Make sure cleaning supplies are put away in a secure location.
You will need to consider the size of your space when thinking about the type of pet you want to foster. For example: for a mom cat with kittens, a large dog crate works well. The crate will keep the kittens safely confined, and there will be enough room for mom to take a break from the babies if she needs to. A litter of puppies will need more space, such as a large crate and a playpen area. Adult dogs will need to have access to the outdoors for exercise and potty time.
What if my foster pet becomes sick, injured or lost? You must call the Foster Program Coordinator right away. If your pet is sick or injured, you will need to provide details about the symptoms. For example: if the kitten has diarrhea, you will be asked when it started, what color is it, is there blood, is the kitten lethargic, is the kitten eating and drinking. We may want you to bring your pet to the Adoption Center to be assessed by a member of our medical team. Sometimes the pet will be able to get assessed then go home with you the same day. Sometimes pets will need to stay at the Heritage Humane Society for medical observation. Sometimes pets will need to go offsite to one of our vet partners (usually the case of emergencies or after hours issues). If an offsite vet appointment has been authorized, you will be directed to take the pet to the vet for drop off. The Foster Program Coordinator will contact you about arrangements for picking the pet up once it is ready for release from the vet. Remember, if you take a pet to a vet without prior authorization from the Foster Program Coordinator, you will not be reimbursed for those expenses!
What if I go on vacation or have a business trip? We request that you give the Foster Program Coordinator as much notice as possible. We can either find an alternate foster home, or the pet can stay at the adoption center while you are away. If you know of an upcoming trip out of town, please do not take any fosters who will need extended care- keep the Foster Program Coordinator up to date with your schedule so we can find pets who match your schedule. We also understand that sometimes emergency trips come up.
Are foster animals ever euthanized? The Heritage Humane Society is committed to finding homes for all adoptable animals within its care. Some animals are in foster care because they are ill or injured. Some animals have behavior issues and cannot be safely housed at the Adoption Center. In some cases, the pet is too ill or injured to heal, or behavior issues are too serious, and the Heritage Humane Society staff and medical team will make the decision to humanely euthanize the pet. In some instances, kittens or puppies may “fail to thrive”, they become weak, refuse to eat, and in some cases will pass away. Failure to thrive typically happens to very young pets, and unfortunately can be common.
How should I transport my foster pet home? The Heritage Humane Society will provide a crate or carrier for your foster pets. Cats and kittens must be transported in a secure carrier. Puppies usually ride well in a carrier or crate also. Adult dogs can ride in a crate if it will fit in your vehicle. Most adult dogs do fine just riding in the back seat. Keep in mind that traveling pets may get car sick! The Heritage Humane Society can also provide towels and blankets for crate bedding and for clean-up. Never let your foster ride in the bed or a pick-up truck! If you’re not sure of the best way to travel home with your foster, please ask staff for some advice when you pick up your foster pet.
Do I need prior medical knowledge in order to foster? No, but you may be asked to give medication to your foster pet. You must be able to follow the medical instructions provided by staff. We also recommend that you really get to know your foster so you are able to pick up on any changes that may signal if your foster pet is sick or injured.