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'Crazy need' for B.C. foster volunteers to care for surrendered, rescued animals

Interested in taking care of a dog or cat for a period of time? There are lots of animals that need your help.
A breeder recently surrendered 11 lab puppies and a mother to the BC SPCA.

Eight-day-old puppies were recently surrendered to the BC SPCA and a first-time foster family stepped up to take care of them. 

A breeder surrendered 11 lab puppies and a mother to the not-for-profit society. The BC SPCA says the family who took in the puppies is doing a great job and hopefully, it will inspire others to take in animals and be part of the foster program.

"The BC SPCA is always in need of foster volunteers; animals require assistance all year round, especially in the summer months, when many of our volunteers are on vacation,” says senior officer Eileen Drever. 

Fosters across B.C. provide thousands of vulnerable animals with care, support and, more importantly, a place to thrive and recover.

"During the spring and summer months we tend to see an increase of vulnerable, orphaned, nursing or pregnant animals, as well as animals which are displaced from natural disasters such as floods and wildfires,” says Drever. 

She adds the BC SPCA could not provide the level of care and support these animals need without the foster program.

"Frankly, we require volunteers all around the province," she says. 

BC SPCA is not the only society needing foster homes and people to volunteer — it's a widespread issue across the province. 

An animal rescue group in Fort St. John does not have enough foster homes. 

“We get a lot of high-needs animals which makes finding foster homes difficult sometimes,” states a spokesperson with On Our Way Home Animal Rescue Society.

“We have some amazing people though and some fosters are in homes for up to six months.” 

Staff at Prince George Animal Rescue have not used foster volunteers in the past but are now having to. 

"We don't use fosters that often as we have our own facility, but with the crazy need for animals to come in this past year, we have been at max capacity and having to utilize fosters,” says Nicola Redpath, owner and founder. 

Langley Animal Protection Society, meanwhile, requires more fosters too. 

"We have a lot of mom cats and kittens that need loving homes to birth and grow up in. As well, some orphaned babies who are being bottle-fed,” says Sarah Jones, executive director. 

Another society in Langley that focuses on foster-based rescue says it ‘always’ struggles to acquire and keep enough good foster homes. Karen Grange with Small Dog Rescue BC Society says they want foster volunteers to be close to their vet, which makes finding volunteers tricky. 

"This makes the pool of people much smaller,” she says. 

What to consider before being a foster volunteer

Foster volunteers provide a safe space for some of the most vulnerable animals. It’s important they're not only educated on what it takes but are prepared for what’s in store.

Foster opportunities and commitment lengths vary; for example, BC SPCA has different time commitments depending on the need

Foster Classification Time commitment
Sick and Injured animals 1-8 weeks
Shy and under socialized animals 1-8 weeks
Mom and nursing animals 8-14 weeks
Bottle feeding animals 5-12 weeks
Pregnant animals 8-16 weeks
Animals in quarantine 2-6 weeks
Compassion placements 1 week-6 months
Emergency placements 1-8 weeks

People must apply to the foster care team and have their landlord's approval if renting a unit to have a dog. 

The individual must be over 19 years old and have the ability to spend time with the foster animal and monitor the health of the animal.

The role also requires a room with a closing door and windows where the foster animal can have a quiet space. The foster volunteer must also be able to bring the animal to appointments, treatments and weigh-ins. 

BC SPCA will provide food, treats, feeding supplies, toys, blankets, kennels and brushes. It will also give guidance and support to the volunteer on how to best care for the animal. 

Grange says people should have realistic expectations if they want to be a foster volunteer.

"Some people are interested in fostering but upon seeing what it entails may have been unrealistic in the expectations,” she tells Glacier Media.

This includes the fact that most dogs will likely need house training. 

“Some (people) are not equipped to deal with behaviours and drop out quickly,” says Grange. "Lives are hectic and fosters aren’t always available.”

She adds that fosters who do care for the animals often tell her it’s the most enjoyable and rewarding experience.

“It’s wonderful teaching moments for their children, the lessons in giving and letting go,” she says.

Some fosters can’t let go of the dog so they decide to adopt it, which she notes is a great thing.