If you are thinking of buying someone a pet for Christmas, why not consider doing some good at the same time?
Animal charities are in desperate need of foster families for rescued animals. Shelters quickly become over-populated and, unless their inmates can temporarily be housed elsewhere, this can result in animals being put down.
Some charities prefer not to use shelters at all, citing the harm that conditions in even the best refuges can do to already traumatised animals.
Florence Evans, 49, of website secondechance.org said: “Fostering benefits not just the animal, but also the family as it allows them to try pet ownership. They can establish whether they can live with the constraints before adopting”.
Gwendoline Pelletier, 26, is a volunteer for the charity SADF. She began fostering in July 2015, after she saw a plea on Facebook for someone to take in a litter of kittens. She has since fostered 34 animals, in addition to having several pets of her own. Some charges stay for just a month before being adopted, some for longer.
“I have been fostering a pointer called Lili since March 2016 and it has been more difficult to find her a home because of her breed, which puts people off, but she’s adorable”.
It is not always easy to let the animals that you have fostered go to a new home and Mrs Pelletier added: “I get very attached to some of them. I have adopted two of the cats, but I can’t adopt any more. My house is getting too full!”
Legal secretary Laetitia Coornaert, 46, is president of Gironde’s AidAnimaux 33 and notes that it is perfectly normal for foster families to form strong bonds with the animals. “100% of families who are fostering for the first time cry when the animal leaves them, but they can always adopt. Four out of my seven cats came that way”.
Mrs Pelletier said foster families enjoy “transforming the destiny of a living thing” while Ms Coornaert describes the “pleasure of giving love and meeting needs,” and cited as an example of the tender bond formed between one little girl, Maya, and her fostered kitten, Maggie, forged through bottle-feeding.
Foster families are in particular demand after the summer, when tens of thousands of pets are abandoned each year, because owners do not want to care for them when they go on holiday. Ms Coornaert says the only way to reduce the number of abandoned kittens is to educate owners about the fundamental need for sterilisation.
No experience is necessary to foster, though you will need patience and time. It need not be expensive: most associations meet the cost of vets’ bills, and some provide support with food and litter costs, and may be able to provide interim care if you need to be away from home.
Contact your local animal welfare charity for details. A list of associations is on the secondechance.org website.