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  • PACC shelter tops foster record

    Jul 05, 2018 | Read More News
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    foster petIn October 2017, Pima Animal Care Center received a $573,536 three-year grant from Maddie’s Fund to expand its foster care program into a large-scale, high-volume program that would not only focus on pets with special needs, but healthy ones, too. Eight months later, PACC’s shelter achieved a record, sending 3,251 pets to foster care in one year. 

    “I’ve been involved in animal welfare for two decades, and, to the best of my knowledge, this is a new national record,” said PACC Director of Animal Services Kristen Auerbach. “The closest anyone has come to this is Ventura County who sent 2,800 pets to foster in one year.”

    Before receiving the grant, PACC relied on foster volunteers to care for its most at-risk pets, including newborns and those recovering from illnesses or surgeries. Thanks to the funding received from Maddie’s, PACC now recruits foster parents for senior pets, pets with behavioral issues, and pets who could simply use a break from the shelter. 

    “This is really exciting for us because we believe fostering is capable of entirely changing the way we run our organization,” Auerbach said. “We know that housing pets in foster as opposed to a kennel is safer, more humane and helps get them adopted more quickly. PACC has historically suffered from seasonal overcrowding, which can cause disease and behavioral challenges in kenneled animals – foster is the key to solving this problem.”

    Part of the foster program expansion involved hiring four dedicated full-time foster care coordinators to help place pets with potential fosters. These individuals focus on four areas of care: medical and neonatal, long stay and behavioral cats, long stay and behavioral dogs, and post placement, which helps foster pets get adopted from their foster homes. Part of their day-to-day jobs involve identifying shelter pets who could benefit from foster care, matching them with registered fosters, recruiting new ones, and providing resources and support to its fosters.

    Long time PACC foster Donna Vining credits the shelter’s support group as a motivating factor to continue fostering. 

    “The vast support mechanism here is really reassuring,” Vining said. “It could be the middle of the night and there’s always someone available to ask a question, ask for help or advice.” 

    In her three years as a PACC foster, Vining has opened her home to 82 puppies – eight of which just joined her this week. 

    “Puppies are my specialty – my passion,” she said. “They’re cute, they’re fun and they’re a delight to take care of.”

    PACC foster Donna ViningBy the time Vining’s puppies reach 8 weeks old, they’re already housetrained and know basic commands like sit, lie down and roll over. 

    “I condition them to listen to the human voice,” Vining said. “And I focus on housetraining because that’s what’s most daunting to people looking to adopt.”

    When ready for adoption, Vining will give adopters a synopsis of the dog’s experience in foster care, which includes a description of how they were set up at home and a travel bag that includes the dog’s fleece blanket and chew toys.

    While the foster experience doesn’t come into play much with puppies because they get adopted almost instantly, it makes a huge difference for older pets. 

    “The foster experience gives us the insight we need to market our pets to potential adopters,” Auerbach said. “Foster observations help us demonstrate how pets behave inside a home and around people, and ultimately give us details needed to create personal connections and get people in the door to adopt.”  

    Over the past year, PACC officials estimate nearly 85 percent of its foster pets found adopters while they were still in foster care. In many ways, this is thanks to the benefits of foster care. 

    “Pets in foster have lower risk of infection and because they receive more human contact, they’re better socialized and more prepared to be adopted,” Vining said. “When they go out to a normal home, they learn how to be a better pet.”

    Foster care has changed the adoption landscape for many shelters and animal rescue organizations across the nation, particularly PACC’s. Thanks to the support from Maddie’s, PACC is now a national model for other large municipal shelters wishing to replicate its lifesaving success. Earlier this year, PACC drew dozens of animal welfare organizations from across the country to participate in two foster apprenticeships led by Maddie’s Fund.

    “The fact that other shelters are sending people to PACC to train is huge. The shelter has really come a long way and that’s wonderful,” Vining said.

    In its first eight months, PACC’s foster care program expansion has seen enormous success and it’s only the beginning. The shelter’s latest foster ideas include short outings, like daytrips and pawjama parties, to give pets a break from the shelter. 

    In addition, PACC also offers a foster-to-adopt program to people who would like to test the waters before committing to an adoption. Similar to a foster placement, individuals who choose the foster-to-adopt route get to choose their pet and can keep it forever if things work out or return it to the shelter after a few days, weeks, or months. 

    If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, sign-up online and visit PACC’s shelter during normal business hours, noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends, to see the pet options available. For more information about PACC’s foster program, visit www.pima.gov/foster or email a foster coordinator at pacc.foster@pima.gov.