Why should I consider fostering?
As a rescue community in Philadelphia, we have limited shelter space and resources for our homeless pet population. Our city’s intake shelter handles over 30,000 pets annually. Unfortunately, the reality is that the number of homeless animals in Philadelphia outnumbers the available kennels in our shelters. Thousands healthy and adoptable pets are euthanized each year in Philly due to limited holding space. Rescue partners such as The Monster Milers work with our City’s intake shelter to increase the number of lives saved via our foster programs (without needing to increase kennels!) We act like a steam release valve to ease the pressure. Not only do foster parents maximize the number of animals rescued in our City, they also help to care for dogs that would be difficult to care for in a shelter environment. (Sometimes dogs are sick and just need a loving home, peace and quiet so their immune system can bounce back. Other times shy dogs that are totally adoptable get overlooked at the shelter because they “shut down” due to stress.) A foster home simply provides a loving and safe environment for the dog until it is adopted. It’s so simple, but it’s so crucial!
How do I know which dog I should foster?
A lifesaving team member from The Monster Milers will meet you at the shelter to meet dogs and find the one that works best for you. (If you have a dog, it’s important to bring your dog to the shelter so we can make sure their personalities are compatible. If you have a cat, we will only introduce you to dogs who have passed a “cat test.”) Dogs are placed based on need, temperament, and your abilities and lifestyle. You can identify your preferences in the foster application. As a foster, you also have the power to decide at the shelter that a dog may not fit into your family, home or lifestyle, for whatever the reason. We want you to feel comfortable! (Do not be afraid to be honest with us while we’re meeting dogs.) The more you foster for us and the more honest you are with us, the better we can appropriately place the right foster with you. The dog that you foster is ultimately your choice. (We just help you make smart decisions. And trust us, we won’t take any dog into our rescue that we are uncomfortable with either.)
What supplies are needed to be a foster?
As a Miler foster family, you’ll go home with a “foster kit” which includes a crate, a leash/collar, feeding bowls, treats, towels for bedding, a few toys, and a gift certificate to purchase dog food. IMPORTANT: If you feel you need a supply that is not included in the kit, please contact the Foster Care Coordinator. To be reimbursed for ANY supplies, you must get prior approval from us. (Do not buy supplies assuming we’ll reimburse you for them. We may already have the supplies you need at Miler HQ!) Other purchases made for foster care are considered donations to The Monster Milers and are tax-deductible. (Keep your receipts.) All of the supplies included in the “foster kit” (or supplies that you were reimbursed for) are property of The Monster Milers must be returned after your foster dog is returned. We will use them for future foster families. Our kits cost over $150!
Do I have to be a runner to foster a dog for The Monster Milers?
Nope! We welcome all active lifestyles! (And truth be told, not all dogs are runners anyway.) As long as you can provide the necessary outlets for exercise for your foster dog, we welcome you into our rescue family! All of these forms of exercise are A-OK with us: regular fetch in a fenced in backyard, leashed walks, agility training, hiking, etc. Just like humans, dogs thrive (physically and emotionally) when they get regular exercise, but there is more to exercise than just running.
How long will I have the dog for?
As a foster family, you commit to fostering your animal until an adoptive home can be found. We are a foster-based rescue and we do not have “kennels” to take back fosters, so we ask that you make sure you can commit to the process. Finding a home can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It depends on the animal’s health (sometimes we have to wait a few weeks to spay / neuter the pup), age, temperament, the time of year, how proactive you are about marketing your foster animal on social media / within your own network of family/friends/coworkers, and your willingness to bring your foster dog to our adoption events. If you can only foster for a specific period of time, or have an upcoming trip planned that could impact your ability to foster, please let us know when filling out your foster care form.
Who do I call if I have a question?
You will call the Foster Care Coordinator. We’ll get you all of the necessary contact details!
I want to foster! What do I do now?
The first step is to fill out our foster application. We’ll review it and contact you in about 48 hours.
Vet Care and Safety while Fostering
Do I have to pay for vet services?
We cover all vet fees for our foster animals. This includes spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, heartworm testing & medication, and any wellness visits. We work with specific vets in Philadelphia who provide their services at discounted rates. Please do not take your foster animal to your local vet. We will schedule appointments as needed through our approved veterinary partners.
How many vet visits can I expect to go on with my foster dog?
Generally our fosters go on 2-3 vet visits prior to adoption. Most of our fosters will go in for a “wellness” check day or two after we rescue them. You might get medications to deal with common illnesses and the vet will likely talk to you about a good time to schedule spay/neuter surgery (if the pup isn’t already fixed.) At a later date (normally 1-3 weeks after rescue), we’ll send you back to the vet for the spay/neuter surgery. About 5-7 days after surgery, your foster will be ready for adoption. (We will be working with you along the way to promote your foster pup. Some of our dogs have approved adopters before spay/neuter and can go “home” as soon as they recover from surgery!)
Are there any other safety guidelines I should know about?
As policy, foster dogs are not allowed to be left alone with resident dogs unattended. We provide a crate to all of our foster families and actively recommend crating your foster dog when you are not home. This assures that your foster dog will not get into trouble, helps tremendously with potty training, and allows your resident dog (if you have one) some space. Children must also be closely supervised at all times when interacting with foster animals. (This should go for any kid-dog interaction!) If you have any questions about crate training, please contact us.
What if I get a dog with behavioral issues?
It’s not good for us to rescue a dog with behavioral problems either, so rest assured that we do our absolute best to screen dogs while at the shelter with you. While we are meeting dogs, if you are uncomfortable with a dog’s energy level or temperament, please do not hesitate to speak up. Should you experience behavioral issues with a foster dog, we have a professional trainer that we network with who can assist you. We want you to have a great foster experience because we want you to be a repeat foster family. Part of how we do this is by rescuing dogs that we believe are adoptable and suitable for everyday family life. We can’t predict the future, but should you need advice/guidance if your foster dog exhibits behaviors that concern you, that is what we are here for. In our past experience, most issues can be prevented by following our basic safety policies: Dogs are always crated when unattended, dogs are never off-leash in public, children and dogs are supervised at all times, potty training protocols are followed, etc. Prevention is the best method!
Can I run with my foster dog?
Your foster dog may come in to your home on medication (or go on medication after its first vet visit) for treatable issues like kennel cough. Your foster dog should not run while on medication. If your foster dog is no longer on medication but is still showing signs of kennel cough (coughing, sneezing), please don’t run with him or her until the symptoms are 100% gone. Once you decide to run with your foster dog, start him or her off slowly. She/he may have never run before so you want to ease into it. Note: If you are fostering a puppy, or any dog that is determined to be younger than a year old, please consult the vet at your first appointment before running with your foster dog. Puppies’ growth plates are still developing and taking a young dog on a run with you before he or she is fully developed can cause orthopedic issues for that dog down the road.
Are foster animals contagious? Will my resident pets or my health be jeopardized?
It is always a health risk to expose your animal to other animals, whether at the off-dog parks, the vet waiting room or other common animal areas. If your pets are current on their vaccinations, maintain healthy diets and lifestyles, and are not immune compromised, then the health risk should be minimal. If you are concerned, talk to your vet. (Many of our foster families have resident dogs.) In general, humans are not at risk for adverse health complications when rescuing dogs. (Pregnant women need to be careful when rescuing cats, however. But we’re a dog rescue!)
Can I take my foster dog to the dog park?
No. Our dogs can never be off-leash in public and are strictly prohibited from going to dog parks. Foster dogs must remain on leash at all times when in public areas. We’ll leave safe, off-leash socialization up to the adoptive family once the dog is settled in a permanent home. Likewise, when walking/running/hiking with a foster, the dog must be on-leash at all times. No exceptions!
What are some common behaviors a dog may exhibit in the first few days of foster care?
Your foster dog is coming from a place where he or she has been pretty stressed out. It’s not uncommon for foster dogs to arrive at their foster home and crash for a couple of days. They have been through a very stressful time, and once they realize they are safe, you may notice that they’ll simply “unwind” for a few days. They may sleep a lot (or even get sick). It’s important that you keep the Foster Care Coordinator up to date on the health status of your foster dog. We try to have all of our fosters seen by a veterinarian within 1-3 days of rescue for a wellness check.
Your foster pup is also arriving in a brand new environment with new people, so it’s imperative that you take things slow. You can never take it TOO slow! Some great ideas:
Too many choices can be overwhelming for a dog in a new home. Introduce to the dog slowly to different parts of the house. Don’t allow the dog to have the full run of the house from the get-go.
We provide a crate for all of our fosters.. Use it! If you have any questions about the benefits of crate training, please contact our Foster Care Coordinator. We would be happy to talk to you about how it can actually help your foster dog cope with the many changes in his/her life. Crates are very important if you have a resident dog, because as policy our fosters must be kept separated from resident animals when unsupervised.
If you have resident animals, don’t assume that they’re BFFs because they were okay around each other during their meet at the shelter. Keep all dogs on leashes while in the house at first. Allow them supervised time together for short periods of time (ten minutes here, ten minutes there). Slowly increase the amount of supervised time they are together. This should be a multi-week-long process. Do not feed your resident animals and foster dog together. And it’s a good idea to keep toys away from them while you’re working on your slow introductions.
Introductions to strangers: Take things slow at first. During the first few human intros, pay close attention to your dog to look for signs of stress. Always monitor children around dogs and make sure children know what is appropriate and not appropriate in terms of handling. Talk to your kids specifically about how to behave around dogs. This is an important discussion for every parent, not only parents who foster dogs. See more about teaching children to be dog savvy.
Intros to toys: If you have resident dogs, be sure to pay close attention to toys and lookout for signs of resource guarding (from your own dog, or your foster dog.) Some dogs should be separated when playing with toys.
The name of the game is: take it slow and OBSERVE. Get to know your foster dog first before throwing too many curve balls! Check out a really great article about common mistakes people make when bringing home a new dog.
What if I have a family emergency or have to leave town?
Please notify us ahead of time so that we can make arrangements for your foster dog to go elsewhere while you are gone. We must know where our foster dogs are at all times, so if you need to leave town, be sure to contact our Foster Care Coordinator for clearance about any changes in who will be taking care of your foster. Some foster families (who have other pets) have insured dog sitters who will also watch their foster dog. (Please clear this with us though.) We are open to ideas, but cannot afford to cover the costs of dog sitters if you need to leave town. If you wish to pay for these options (once they are approved by The Monster Milers), that is great. If a sitter is not an option, please contact us so we can find a suitable temporary placement for your foster dog. If you are thinking about fostering, but know you have a trip planned in the future, please give us heads up about it so we can plan ahead.
Finding a Home for your Foster Dog
How exactly do we find an adopter? Will I be supported in this process?
We work together as a team to find an adopter for your pup. You’re not alone. And because we only foster 1-4 dogs at a time, we can really advocate for YOUR foster dog. This is what we’ll do as a team:
Our social media blitz begins immediately: Directly after rescue, we will put your dog on our website, on PetFinder, and we start to promote him/her on our social media outlets. We have thousands of followers / supporters and hundreds of volunteers who will almost immediately know about your foster dog.
We are partnered with BeWellPhilly (Philadelphia Magazine) and each week they post about one of our running buddies. These postings go out to tens of thousands of BWP followers!
Adoption Events: We’ll also let you know about our upcoming adoption events. We have had numerous adoption connections made at our “Adopt a Running Buddy” events at local stores, races and festivals, so we encourage you to make them a priority.
Adopt Me Vests: Don’t forget the power of an “Adopt Me” vest. (You’ll get one when you go home with a foster.) Simply having your foster wear the Adopt Me vest while out on walks (or runs!) in public can really help with finding a home! People LOVE to stop and chat to a dog in an “Adopt Me” vest.
Take great photos, and take them OFTEN! Pictures also go a LONG way in terms of adoption - so take LOTS of photos and share them on your own social networks. Don’t forget share them with us too so we can blast them out! Our followers will often share our posts, so the cute photo you take could potentially be shared with tens of thousands of potential adopters! A photo is worth a thousand words, and our adoption posts do much better when we have awesome photos to share.
Does the organization need to approve adopters or do I make the decision?
We work as a team to make sure our fosters are going to awesome homes. All of our adopters must be screened by our organization prior to adoption. Potential adopters must fill out an “Adoption Application.” A member of our Lifesaving Team will review the application, contact references, vets, landlords, etc. Once the adopter is approved, we will contact you to let you know you can set up a “meet.” Usually the meet takes place in your home (or the adopters’ home) and it’s a chance for everyone to meet each other and make sure it’s a good fit. As a foster family, you are an extension of our organization. This is where your role as an experienced caregiver really comes into play! By this point, you will have likely formed a deep bond with your foster and you’ll want the best for him/her. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and really make sure it’s a great fit! If it is, an adoption fee can be collected and the adoption will be finalized.
What if an approved adopter has a cat or a dog already?
We know which foster dogs of ours are approved to live with cats and/or dogs. If your foster dog does not like cats and/or dogs, we won’t even set up a meeting with an adopter who has other pets. Don’t worry! If an approved adopter has a dog, we recommend meeting on-leash in a “neutral” location, like a park, to see if the dogs get along. Once it is determined that they get along, a home-meeting can be set up. (Some dogs get territorial about new dogs entering their property but might be totally fine meeting a dog off-site first. A neutral meeting ground assures that most dogs won’t be on the defensive.) The Best Friends has a great article on introducing new dogs to cats and you can keep this in mind during meets and share it with potential adopters who may have cats in their home.
What if I have reservations about an approved adopter after a meeting?
As an rescue organization, we will pre-screen all incoming adoption applications and send them your way to set up dog meets, but we know that sometimes people present themselves better on paper than they do in person. Perhaps you saw warning signs or something was mentioned that made you think, “No. This is not the right person.” We feel that foster families should (as much as possible) have a say in which home their foster pooch gets permanently placed. We know that you have probably bonded with your foster dog and know his/her quirks and what sort of home he/she would thrive in. Don’t feel like the approved adopter you meet was a good fit? That’s what we’re here for. We can work as a team to make sure your foster is going to the perfect home. We can step in to help figure out what to do in case you meet an approved adopter that you don’t feel 100% about. Contact us if this is the case. And also - maybe the person just isn’t the right fit for YOUR foster dog. We may have another dog in foster that would work better. Let us know!
Can I adopt my foster dog?
Yes, so long as we all feel you can provide a stable, long-term home. Think through the decision carefully so that you are not deciding to keep the animal solely because it is too difficult to let him/her go. (We know how hard it is. Many of us on the lifesaving committee are foster families ourselves.) Remember, your role as a foster family is invaluable to our rescue’s ability to save lives. As an adopter you may only be able to save one (or two) animal’s life, but as a ongoing foster parent you have the potential to help dozens of dogs. We’re happy to talk this through with you, and in the end, as a team we’ll make a decision based on what is best for the dog. If you’re having trouble saying goodbye, check out this awesome article by the PetFinder with tips for saying goodbye to foster animals.