There are pet people and then there are PET people. I am so fortunate to work with some of the most amazing pet people in my line of work. Men and women that give not a second thought to rescuing one, two, three or more strays. Individuals that spend their weekends not lunching, golfing or resting but at adoption events talking up their brood to passersby.
The job that these dedicated folks do is called fostering. Or, the keeping of dogs or cats in need of adoption in homes rather than at a shelter until a permanent family is found.
Typically, fostered animals make wonderful pets. Issues, if any, are usually worked out while in their temporary home. This makes sense…they are living with other animals, learning to follow a routine and are handled by many at adoption events.
Sharon Espinola, the president of St. Francis Society Animal Rescue has been involved with rescue for years. She says that she has been with St. Francis so long that she can not remember how she learned about it originally.
How does St. Francis differ from other rescue organizations? According to Sharon, her group is the only rescue group in the area that cares for and adopts out dogs AND cats. Sharon says “We’ve been around a long time, since 1997, and we were the first organization that focused on no-kill, as the history goes.” In fact St. Francis found permanent homes for 904 cats and dogs in 2009 and early 2010!
A few important facts:
- Today, all foster groups in our area focus on no-kill
- Foster dogs come from shelters, owner surrenders and are often found abandoned on the side of the road
- Most groups work together to network dogs and find a good permanent fit
- Area veterinarians provide discounted rates to foster groups oftentimes
- Foster rescue organizations are run 100% by volunteers
- These groups are funded by donations and private grants
Dogma Rescue is a newer rescue organization founded by three young women who had been involved with other groups in the past. They decided to take everything they learned, put their own twist on it and see what happened.
Currently, 30 dogs are in foster care and Dogma has had great success adopting out their dogs on a weekly basis.
Amy Howland, one of the rescue’s founders, explains Dogma as an all-breed, all-shape and all-size dog rescue. They do not discriminate. She says that she and co-founders Melissa Weitzenfeld and Ann-Marie Pearson never really made a conscious decision to become foster parents to dogs in need but all had a life-long knack of finding and caring for strays. This eventually led to each woman getting involved with a reputable foster organization, learning the ropes and starting their own.
Amy has a message for anyone considering fostering: “The thing we hear people say most is that they are afraid to foster because they would keep the dog. But when you see a dog go to not just a “good” home, but an AMAZING home, where you know that dog is going to be the Center of the Household Universe, you really can do it! The family is forever grateful to us for their dog and we are forever grateful to them for opening up their hearts and home to a rescue dog.”
When you speak to either Sharon from St. Francis, Amy from Dogma or the men and women from any other rescue organization, the heart warming stories abound. At the same time, their needs are great. EVERY rescue group needs foster parents; EVERY group needs funds to operate.
To get involved with either of these wonderful organizations, whether as a volunteer, foster parent or to financially support, please see their contact information below:
St. Francis Society Animal Rescue
PO Box 261614
Tampa, FL 33685-1614
533 S. Howard Ave, Ste 8
Tampa, FL 33606
I’d like to leave you with this sentiment:
“I’ve been involved with the organization eight plus years….I love the work. It’s the eyes of the dogs and cats we care for…that’s what gets me and has kept me involved. When I stare into the eyes of a homeless dog or cat I see something that is hard to put into words, but I’ve often said it’s in those eyes that I see hope. There are no judgments, only the desire to be loved,” Sharon Espinola, St. Francis Society Animal Rescue.
Won’t you consider fostering?