In order to relieve animal shelter overcrowding, the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society launched the new “Foster to Family” program, which allows animals to be adopted directly from foster owners.
While a foster system existed before Foster to Family, the new program does not require animals to come back to the shelter before the adoption paperwork can be filled out. Instead, the foster owners will be responsible for “connecting” animals with potential long-term owners, according to a Dec. 1 press release from Berkeley Humane.
“Our efforts to increase the number of dogs and cats we intake from local municipal shelters have kept our shelter bursting at the seams all year,” said Jeffrey Zerwekh, executive director of Berkeley Humane, in the press release. “Our existing foster program has been an effective temporary solution, but those foster animals are typically returned to the shelter every weekend for adoptions.”
Foster to Family will make space available for more animals in need, as the shelter will not need to reserve space for animals in foster care, according to Thomas Altherr, the Berkeley Humane director of development and communications. Berkeley Humane will supply food, bedding, toys and kitty litter, among other necessities, to the foster owners, and a medical team will also work with the foster animals to maintain the animals’ health.
In addition to receiving animals from overcrowded local shelters and running an adoption center, Berkeley Humane also operates a shelter-only veterinary hospital that offers vaccination, microchipping and deworming clinics.
“The pet homelessness problem extends beyond any one shelter to the way animals are valued and cared for in our community,” Altherr said in an email. “Berkeley Humane is committed to offering low cost spay/neuter options, as well as connecting individuals with other non-profit clinics in the area.”
Lynne Tingle, the founder and director of the Milo Foundation, an alternative shelter for homeless dogs, said most shelters in the East Bay are “filled to capacity.”
Tingle said she has a similar system in place with long-time foster owners who are familiar with the adoption process. She did mention, however, that dogs are paired better when potential owners meet and interact with them at the shelter.
“As long as (the Humane Society has) the bandwidth to educate the fosters well enough, and they screen the adopters … I think it’s a fine plan,” Tingle said. “It definitely works out well for everyone.”
Volunteers can get involved with the program by attending one of Berkeley Humane’s foster orientations. Tingle said, however, that outreach is just as important as offering to foster and that sharing photos of animals can help bring together pets and owners.
“We’re fortunate in a way to have these cute furry faces to draw people in,” Tingle said. “It’s about engaging people and the foster program.”