A Beginner’s Guide to Fostering Animals in Tampa Bay

By Maddi Dolan

The process a shelter animal goes through to get adopted seems pretty simple, right? The animal is surrendered or picked up off the street and brought to a rescue shelter, and then a caring person or loving family comes along to adopt it. Wrong. We’re missing a very important step in the adoption process that is oftentimes overlooked – pet fostering. 

“Something that people don’t realize is that we can’t rescue animals unless we have people to foster them,” said Aja Estro, president and founder of Compassion Kind Rescue. “Fosters are a huge part of the rescue. They allow us to be able to save so many animals.” 

If you’ve ever been curious about having a pet of your own, but are unsure about the lifelong commitment, fostering is a great way to see if you’re ready to take on a pet full time.

So here is a beginners guide to fostering an animal in the Tampa Bay area. 

Where can I foster and how do I apply?

There are many animal shelters in Tampa that are in need of fosters. All it takes is a simple Google search to be matched with at least a dozen rescue shelters. 

 One well known shelter that is close to The University of Tampa campus is the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, which is located at 3607 N Armenia Ave, Tampa, FL. 

According to Dawn Smith, foster department staff member at the Tampa Bay Humane Society, the application for fostering is located on the Humane Society’s website.

“You can apply for fostering online. It’ll take seven to 10 days to get approved, and we’ll call you if we have any questions,” said Smith. “After that you’ll be sent a link where you can look through the animals that are listed for fostering to find an animal that is best fit for you.” 

Another shelter that is in desperate need of fosters is the Compassion Kind Foundation and Animal Rescue, which is a small shelter located in St. Petersburg, FL. The application for fostering is also available on their website. 

Unlike the Humane Society, Compassion Kind will match you with an animal based on your application. 

“When you fill out the application, it’ll let us know what kind of home environment you have. If there’s children around, other animals in the home, or if you have a fenced in yard or live in an apartment. For us, none of those are deterrents,” said Estro. “It will just allow us to try and do our best at matching our fosters with dogs or cats that will meet their needs.”

Fostering at both Compassion Kind and the Humane Society is also completely free.

“We provide everything,” said Estro. “We provide the crate, food, toys and treats. We also take care of all their vet visits and medical fees.”

Estro said the rescue currently has 92 animals in foster care and 13 animals that are in desperate need of foster homes. 

Benefits of fostering:

Each day, dozens of animals are brought to rescue shelters around the Tampa Bay area. But due to overcrowding and behavioral problems brought on by high stress levels in these shelters, the animal may be euthanized. Pet fostering pulls animals out of these shelters and into temporary homes, where they are given a second shot at life and a chance to find a forever home. 

By opening your home to a foster animal, you’re not only helping save their life, but you’re also providing them with the individual care and attention that they need, and probably wouldn’t get in a shelter. 

“Fostering is a super rewarding process,” said Hannah Pesetsky, senior environmental science major. “You get to see animals go from being very unsocialized to super loving pets.” 

Over the years, Pesetsky has fostered two dogs and six cats. Back in January of 2021, she adopted one of her foster dogs, Hue, who is a nine-year-old Pit Bull mix. 

Fostering also gives animal shelters more space to help even more animals in need. 

Think you’re ready to foster? Here are some words of advice:

1. Fostering a shelter animal is not easy. 

“Fostering is not easy,” said Pesetsky. “Many older dogs have experienced harsh living conditions which block their ability to trust. But with enough perseverance and love, that dog will become the best companion in the world.” 

“I wish I would’ve known it’s not as easy as you would think,” said Mia Vaccaro, UT alumna and two time foster. “Many of these dogs are strays and they are scared, have never been in a home, and are unsure of their environment.”

2. Be patient.

“Remember that these animals are coming from so many different backgrounds and traumas,” said Estro. “They’re in a new environment and you’re a new person to them. So have patience and give them at least a week to learn how to trust you.”

“Start off slow and be as patient as you can,” said Vaccaro. “You can’t jump into all of these fun activities with them right away. You have to give them time to get used to you.”

3. Be aware of what you can handle.

“It can be heartbreaking at times. It may be hard to say goodbye and give the animal back, but the good thing is that you can always adopt,” said Smith. “Other times the animal is put in foster care because it is sick or injured. Sometimes the animal doesn’t make it and that can be difficult. But it’s rewarding knowing the animal got to experience love before they passed away.”

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