Every year in Minnesota, many pet owners realize that they are unable to care for their pets due to a variety of circumstances.
But now, thanks to a new local organization called Foster My Pet, people experiencing tough times may have a chance to send their pets to loving foster homes while they work to create an environment where they can once again care for their animals. Daniela vonArx, the founder of Foster My Pet, explains how the organization (and their thoughtful, thorough process) works:
Sidewalk Dog: What exactly is Foster My Pet?
Daniela vonArx: Foster My Pet is a surrender prevention organization. We offer temporary foster care for pets to families with limited resources, and provide animal behavior consultations to keep pets and families together. We serve pet owners who cannot afford to board their pets and cannot pay for in-home pet care while they are recovering from a setback.
I started this organization two-and-a-half years ago, facing many challenges. As of May 2011, we were officially a non-profit organization, and we gained 503(c)3 status shortly after. Since then, we have helped many people keep their pets, and today, we are expanding our programs to help pet owners even more.
SD: What makes someone eligible to use your services?
DvA: In order to qualify, a person has to fall under one of three categories: receiving public assistance, enrolled in a social service agency program, or getting by on a very limited income (federal income guidelines are applied). Once the pet owner’s eligibility has been determined, the pet needs to pass a behavior evaluation, as we do not offer foster care for aggressive animals, due to risk to the foster families. Furthermore, the pet owners have to be on action plans to make sure that they will be able to take their pets back after the time agreed upon.
SD: What services do you provide?
DvA: Currently, we offer a foster care program for as long as three months, as well as in-home animal behavior consultations. We are also working on establishing programs in three additional areas:
- In-home pet care for people recovering from surgery who cannot care for their pets for a short period of time in their own homes. A volunteer visits the pet owner’s home and will attend to the needs of the pet (leash walks, brushing, playtime, cleaning the litter box, food utensils, etc.)
- A pet owner’s self-improvement plan. The pet owner receives helpful links, and establishes an action plan that will help to reunite the pet and the family within the time agreed upon.
- Basic public education on pet care: how to feed, exercise, and make sure that all basic needs of the companion animal are met. Free classes will be given to families that qualify. The Behavior Crew [Foster My Pet’s term for the group of veterinary technicians, dog trainers, vet students and vet tech students that provides in-home behavior consultations] will be available to answer questions in regards to animal behavior concerns. If applicable, supplies and pet food will be given for free and the pet owners are encouraged to stay in touch and to let us know how they are doing.
We believe that these programs will help keep pets and their families together, and therefore, will help avoid surrender of a pet if the problems are addressed as early as possible.
SD: Specifically, in what kinds of situations might people seek help from Foster My Pet?
DvA: Some examples are:
- Foreclosure, impending homelessness or a need to go to transitional housing where pets are not allowed.
- Loss of one’s job or loss of the ability to pay for food and vaccinations.
- A pet owner who cannot stay at home for a certain period of time, due to surgery, in-patient treatment or rehabilitation.
SD: What is the need like for these services in the Twin Cities?
DvA: Overwhelmingly big. We have many more inquiries than we have foster families available.
SD: How long is a pet typically fostered for? And what is the process like for the foster families?
DvA: Foster periods vary from two weeks up to three months. Our foster families are very dedicated, and we make sure they have all they need to care for the pets: Pet food and supplies are provided by Foster My Pet and delivered to their doors. Pet owners receive regular updates, many times with photographs of their pets being taken care of. This keeps the emotional bond between the pet owner and the pet strong throughout the foster period.
SD: Tell us about some of the pet owners you’ve helped.
DvA: All pet owners are extremely thankful for our services. I imagine that for most of them, we are their last hope before they must consider surrendering their beloved companion animal. We do have a 100% success rate for returning pets to their owners, which I credit to the fact that we offer extensive services to make sure the pet owners are getting back on track. We take care of their pets as if they were our own.
If you’d like more information about Foster My Pet’s services or you’d like to volunteer as a foster family, find the necessary forms here.