Fostering – the key to increasing rates of rescue?
As any reader of the book knows, I am hugely thankful to Janet North, Susie-Belle’s foster-mum not only for trusting us to become Susie-Belle’s new family and arranging for the veterinary care that she needed, but most importantly for immersing her in a loving relationship the first time in her life. Janet and other fosterers of damaged dogs like Susie-Belle are the essential bridge between the dogs traumatic past and difficult present when they first find themselves in rescue, and their peaceful, safe future. For puppy farm survivors, who have never known human kindness, never lived in a home, know nothing about the world outside the cage or concrete pen that imprisoned them, foster homes provide a haven in which they can slowly learn what it is to be cared for and to be free of fear. Some dogs may stay in foster care for many months, others just a few days before heading to their new lives.
I recently came across new research from the US that has specifically looked at the success of a scheme where dogs are sent to foster homes where they also had the task of finding the new home for the dogs. Essentially, the dogs being fostered live very much part of normal life, going out and about into their fosterers community, wearing jackets with the “adopt me” message, making a highly visible presence in the local environment. The fosterers, or “Adoption Ambassadors” as they were called, took responsibility for finding homes and the adoption was completed by them. They used social media, family and friends to find the new homes for the dogs in their care. It builds on the potential idea that many people say they would adopt a dog, than actually do. By enabling the foster dogs to be part of the local community, be visible, be out and about essentially showing themselves to be the adoptable dogs they are, this scheme has shown promising results for increasing adoption rates.
Although the length of time for the Adoption Ambassador dogs to be found homes was longer than those they were compared to in rescue, this was not harmful, as of course they were living in caring, loving homes. Problems that some dogs in shelter have, are caused by the environment of shelters, nothing more. Take them out of the shelters and they are normal dogs.
I think this research shows there is a lot of potential if rescue groups can engage fosterers to take the next step and be responsible for finding homes and the adoptions. By engaging people in their own communities, using their own networks, it may save people feeling dogs in rescue are not for them and going down the puppy buying route as it seems easier.
The full paper is a fascinating read and be found here.