The three BIGGEST myths about fostering shelter pets

We asked our community of rescue advocates what myths about fostering shelter pets they'd like to see debunked. These were the three most-requested myths!

A black and white dog with scars on his face sits with an open mouth smile, wearing a red bandana

MYTH: Foster homes are too confusing for animals.

Where did this myth come from?

Most pets will need time to adjust to a new environment, including foster and adoptive homes. What this looks like will vary between pets; some will only need a few days to settle in and adjust to their new routine, while others will slowly come out of their shell over weeks or months. 

In some cases, moving between multiple homes in a short period of time can make it more difficult for a pet to adjust, especially a pet that is generally nervous or anxious. This may result in the pet needing a longer period of time to bond with new humans, an increase in behaviors like reactivity, or a regression in known behaviors like house training. These are likely the cases that people are thinking of when they believe that foster homes are "too confusing." 

Does this mean that pets shouldn't go to foster homes?

In a perfect world, any pet that needs to find a new home would go straight from their original home to their new home. Unfortunately, we do not live in that perfect world.

Even the best shelter is a difficult place for a pet to be, and most shelters are far from "the best." They are loud and chaotic, with new people and animals moving through every day. Most animals will struggle to get a good night's sleep, and they rarely get a sufficient amount of exercise and enrichment. Shelters also have limited space to properly house and care for animals. This isn't to fault shelters; they are an absolutely vital part of animal welfare, and the staff and volunteers on the ground do the best that they can with what they have for the animals. It's simply a difficult environment for an animal to be in.

Pets coming out of the shelter and into an adoptive home will still need a decompression period while they adjust to their new environment and family. In many cases, this adjustment is even more difficult than the adjustment from foster home to adoptive home, in part because pets coming out of a shelter environment often have less "house skills" than pets that have been in foster homes. Pets who have spent time in a foster home typically have some foundational skills, such as house training and basic manners, while pets coming directly out of a shelter may not have had a recent opportunity to practice these skills.

The overall benefits of being in a foster home, where the pet receives exercise, enrichment, and individual attention in a safe environment, far outweigh any "confusion" or negatives associated with moving from one home to another, especially in comparison to being in a shelter. In any situation, we as humans simply need to be sure that we are giving the pet an opportunity to decompress and adjust to their new home.

MYTH: Short term foster programs do more harm than good.

Where did this myth come from?

This myth goes hand-in-hand with the idea that foster homes are too confusing for pets. Again, bouncing between multiple homes can make it more difficult for some pets to adjust to new situations, but overall, the positives outweigh the potential negatives. The benefits of short term foster programs go far beyond the individual pets participating in the programs, too.

The benefits of short term foster programs

Recent studies that tracked metrics like cortisol presence and heart rate before, during, and after a short term foster period found that as little as one night outside of the shelter reduced a dog’s stress levels. 

Stress can have a huge impact on a pet's physical health and behavior. Because of this, it can be extremely difficult to see a pet's true personality in a shelter environment, which makes it more difficult to effectively match that pet with a forever home.

Time in a home gives the shelter more information on a pet's personality and compatibility with people and other pets. It also provides an opportunity to obtain marketing materials, like quality photos of the pet, that help that pet find a home. Being able to see a dog lounging on a couch, interacting with kids, and simply "being a dog" makes it much easier for a potential adopter to picture that dog in their own home.

In fact, the same study linked above found that shelter dogs that participate in short term foster programs are 14 times more likely to get adopted or transferred to another organization's foster program than dogs that have only spent time in the shelter. Many short term foster homes will also turn into long term foster homes or regular volunteers, too. 

Short term foster programs are also an excellent way to get the community involved in animal welfare. They raise awareness of pet overpopulation, help fight common stigmas against rescue pets, and build trust between the community and shelter. All of these factors play an important role in increasing the quality of life for pets both in our shelters and in our communities as a whole.

MYTH: All foster animals have behavior or health problems.

Where did this myth come from?

Some shelters prioritize foster homes for pets that need extra care, such as very young puppies and kittens, pets with health problems, or pets that are too scared or anxious in the shelter. Shelters that have high adoption rates, short lengths of stay (the amount of time that a pet spends in the shelter before being adopted), and low or controlled intake numbers may not allow "highly adoptable" pets (high-demand breeds, puppies, etc.) to go into foster homes because those particular pets will be adopted faster if they are on the adoption floor. Unfortunately, this is a luxury that most shelters do not have.

This myth also comes from the belief that all rescue animals are "broken" in some way. Many people hold negative stigmas against rescue pets in general, believing that only pets that are sick or have behavior problems end up in shelters and rescues. This is simply false. Pets end up in need of a home for all kinds of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with the individual pet, such as their previous family losing their home or having a big life change that leaves them unable to care for the pet. Even young, purebred puppies and kittens often find themselves in rescue because they are the result of an unplanned litter or prove to be too much of a commitment for their original family to handle.

Pets of all kinds need foster homes

Most rescues and shelters utilize foster homes for ALL animals. This makes it possible to foster a pet that is healthy, behaviorally sound, and potentially already has skills like house training and basic manners under their belt.

While fostering a pet with "special needs" that requires extra care can be rewarding and is the first choice of some foster homes, many people are only willing or able to foster pets who are relatively "easy," and that's okay! Moving "easy" pets into foster homes creates more time and space for the pets that need a little extra care. 

Because pet overpopulation is such a huge issue in the US, many shelters, especially open intake municipal shelters that have little-to-no control over their population, are forced to euthanize animals for space when they run out of room. By placing any pet in a foster home, including the "easy" pets, these shelters have more space, time, and ability to save more lives that would otherwise be needlessly lost.

Foster programs save lives.

It's undeniable that foster programs save the lives of thousands of pets in the US every single year. Fostering a pet doesn't come without challenges, and it isn't the right fit for everyone, but debunking common myths about fostering can help people who are on the fence give it a try.

Fostering one pet may feel like a small gesture to some, but it is everything to that pet, and has an impact that goes well beyond that one pet. Contact your local shelter or rescue to learn more about their available foster programs and how you can get involved.

A dark grey crewneck sweatshirt that reads 'you should rescue a dog' surrounded by illustrations of flowers

Spread the word about animal advocacy.

At Detezi, we believe in progressive and inclusive animal welfare. Everyone deserves to experience the love of a pet, and every pet deserves to experience love. Help us spread the word with our animal advocacy merch.

Enjoy our free educational content?

You can support our mission by making a one-time $5 donation towards our efforts! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Tiktok for more content.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.