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Foster Application

Become a PAWS Foster Parent


Thank you for your interest in fostering!

PAWS’ foster program places animals who are too young, ill, or under-socialized to be adopted into temporary homes so that they can grow, heal, and become ready for adoption. Fostering is an extremely rewarding experience but is also time consuming and a substantial responsibility. Most importantly, it saves lives!

Below is a list of the types of animals needing foster care. Please click to expand the following categories, and read them carefully to learn what to expect. Then, complete the form below and a PAWS staff member will be in touch with you.

Kinds of Animals Needing Foster Care:

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Dogs

Help make the transition from shelter dog to family dog! Foster homes are essential to de-stress from shelter life, provide training and a steady routine, and share the comforts of home. Dogs of all varieties need foster care, especially small dogs recovering from illness or injury, and larger young adult dogs needing training and an outlet for their playful energy. We can provide plenty of informational resources for things like teaching basic commands, leash training, crate training, and more.

By taking in a dog in need, you will help set them up for success and give them a smoother transition into their future adoptive home. We can match you with a foster dog that’s a good fit for your skill level and household.

As a foster, you will be responsible for providing any housebreaking help the dog needs. Even if a dog has lived in a home previously, they’ll need time to adjust to your home and schedule, and can be expected to have accidents along the way. Some just need a refresher course, and others need to be housetrained completely from scratch. On average, it usually takes no longer than two weeks to housebreak a dog. With a little patience and persistence, it’s easy! We can help by providing training resources and guides, as well supplies like puppy pads and a crate (as available).

After losing their prior home, fending for themselves on the street, or enduring a lengthy stay in the shelter, dogs may find it stressful to adjust to a new setting. Especially in the first 1-2 weeks home, they may bark, chew, or show anxious behaviors when left alone. You will be counted upon to manage these temporary issues should they arise, and PAWS will provide training guides to help you. Once you teach your foster the rules and routines of your home, they’ll learn they are finally safe, and their true personality will shine.

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Animals with Illnesses

PAWS focuses on rescuing the animals least likely to survive at the city shelter, especially those recovering from illnesses. These conditions range from short-term infections requiring a basic round of medications to more complicated cases that require ongoing care. Based on your time frame and comfort level, we can match you with a foster that will be a good fit. During their stay in our shelter, they see a veterinarian and receive necessary diagnostics and a plan of treatment. When you bring your foster animal home, PAWS will provide all medications and instructions necessary for their care. You will be responsible for administering medicine (usually eye drops, ear drops, or pills hidden in food), monitoring how they are doing, and bringing them in for clinic appointments at PAWS.

For animals with basic illnesses, they are usually well within a few weeks. Some senior pets or those with more serious illnesses may need a longer stay, with visits to our clinic necessary every week or two weeks. Once they are cleared for adoption, you can continue to foster them until they find a home, or we can move them to an adoption center and open up room for you to foster again!

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Bottle-feeding kittens (newborn to 4 weeks)

Join our bottle-feeding team! Orphaned kittens who are too young to eat on their own are too weak to thrive in the shelter, so their only chance at survival is to be immediately rescued and bottle-fed at home by a foster parent – a challenging but very rewarding job. Kittens need to be fed round-the-clock, every 2-3 hours until they are around 4 weeks old. To care for them, fosters work together in teams: when a litter arrives at the city shelter, we alert our bottle-feeding team, take sign-ups to create a care schedule, then we’re on our way to rescue them as coverage is lined up! You can sign up to foster a litter for several weeks, one week, or as little as 24 hours. If your work schedule is a limiting factor, litters can be dropped off at our clinics for daytime care.

Before applying to foster bottle-feeding kittens, we ask that you look over this booklet which provides an in-depth guide to caring for newborns. You can find more details on PAWS’ Kitten Relay program here.

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Weaned Kittens (4-12 weeks)

Every year, thousands of kittens enter city shelters who are too young to adopt out, and we rely on foster homes to take them in. We generally place kittens into foster care in pairs or groups of three. Some are healthy, and others have treatable illnesses such as eye infections or upper respiratory infections. Ideal for first-time fosters!

Kittens older than 4 weeks are eating and using litter on their own, and require foster care until they are healthy enough and big enough for spay/neuter (generally at 12 weeks). We will help match you with a litter that fits your comfort level and available time frame.

To foster kittens, you will need to designate one room of your home where they will be confined: a bedroom or even a bathroom will work! If you have other pets, you should plan to keep the kittens separate from them, as their immune systems are fragile and they can easily develop illness or experience worsening symptoms. You will need to bring the kittens to our clinic for their vaccinations every 3 weeks, and for their spay/neuter surgeries once they are 2.5 months or 2.5 pounds. Depending on their health, they may need additional clinic visits during their stay with you. Once your kittens are adoption-ready, they can quickly find homes through your own networks, through online promotion, or through placement at one of PAWS’ public adoption locations. Learn more about kitten fostering here.

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Nursing Moms with Kittens

Moms with babies are the easiest fosters to care for: mom does all the work! With the basics like food, litter, and love, you can be a lifesaver for a feline family in need. You should plan to set aside a space in your home, such as a bathroom or spare bedroom, for the mom and kittens to stay. Ideal for first-time fosters!

Mom can be spayed and adopted out as soon as the kittens are weaned, usually after 4-6 weeks. The kittens will stay with you for around 3 months. Please note they can only be flea treated once the kittens are two months old and fully weaned. You will need to bring the kittens to our clinic for their vaccinations every 3 weeks, and for their spay/neuter surgeries once they are big enough. Depending on their health, they may need additional clinic visits during their stay with you. Once adoption-ready, they can find homes straight from foster care, or by moving to one of PAWS’ public adoption locations. Learn more about kitten fostering here.

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Injured Animals

Occasionally we will rescue cats and dogs who come to the shelter with injuries, who need healing time to become adoption-ready. Some have been hit by a car and require leg amputations, others have broken bones, and some have wounds that require bandage changes, cleaning, and extra recovery time. Our veterinarians create a personalized plan of care for each animal; we will share this information with you and guide you through the process so that you are well-equipped to help your foster recover. You will need to provide regular monitoring and care, and also keep them confined to a small room or crate when you leave the house to prevent re-injury. PAWS will continue to provide needed veterinary care, so you will be responsible for transporting the animal to our clinic for their appointments. The length of recovery will depend on the animal but generally takes 4-8 weeks. Once healed, they can be adopted out from your home or at a PAWS adoption center!

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Scared/Shy Cats

Cats who have lived in a home their whole life can find coming into a shelter very scary! At our busy adoption centers, which are filled with people and animals, even cats who are normally friendly and social can become stressed and shut-down. These cats need a calm and quiet place to relax and re-acquaint themselves with the routines of home life. Some may bounce back quickly, and others may need a longer stay in foster to come out of their shell. In addition to providing basic care like food and litter, you will need to be very patient in making slow and steady progress, working every day toward goals like coaxing your foster out of hiding and helping them become comfortable with petting. With love and persistence, their personalities will shine and they’ll never worry about seeing the inside of a shelter again!

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Hospice

Every time PAWS rescues an animal, we do so with the intention of nursing them back to health and adopting them out. Occasionally, however, an animal already in our care will develop an illness that our veterinarians diagnose as incurable despite doing everything we can. In these cases, our focus shifts from trying to cure them to making them comfortable in a loving home setting for however long they have. As a hospice foster, you can be a part of our small and dedicated family of fosters specializing in end-of-life care.

Hospice fostering requires a big heart and a clear head, understanding that for these special animals, quality of life matters more than length. Fosters will communicate closely with PAWS staff to assess the pet’s changing needs, provide for their comfort, and determine at what point euthanasia is the kindest thing we can offer.

The length of stay will vary: for some, their condition may be stable enough that they can have a good quality of life for weeks or months; others may deteriorate more rapidly. Our staff gets to know each animal’s needs and will be able to inform and support you through the process.

Hospice fostering is a good fit for those who have fostered before, and have cared for an ailing animal. Our hospice foster parents are heroes, performing the ultimate act of kindness by taking in sick pets and giving them a loving home for the final leg of their journey.