What Will Happen to All Those Pets in Foster Homes?

Although it seems like an eternity, it was just shy of eight weeks ago that hundreds of millions of lives across the country were abruptly upended. Schools and businesses closed, families and individuals found themselves working and learning from home, and toilet paper, hand sanitizer and webcams became sought-after treasuresAnimal shelters, many at capacity, closed their doors

What happened next emerged as a surprising silver lining from this crisis. People stepped up by the thousands to take foster pets into their homes. 

But what will happen to all those animals when people go back to work?

According to Petpoint a leading shelter management software company that tracks data from almost 1,200 animal welfare organizationsthere was a 93% increase in animals going to foster during the first week after the shutdowns began (March 14-20), compared to the week prior. Currently, they report that roughly 37% of the shelter population is in foster right now. Based on that percentage, this could represent an estimated 60,000 to 90,000 animals in foster homes nationally.

“With many animal shelters closed to the public and with looming fears of a flood of new dogs and cats coming in because of the economic and social impact of COVID-19, only one door remained open to shelters to maintain their lifesaving capacity — their local community of animal lovers,” said Julie Castle, chief executive officer for Best Friends Animal Society. “This has represented an amazing opportunity to get pets out of shelters and into foster homes, which is good for both the pets and the people.

Do animal shelters expect a flood of tens of thousands of pets as life goes “back to normal” and people return to work? Based on current trends, it appears that many foster pets will have some other positive outcome before shelters reopen and people go back to work.

One outcome for these pets is known as “foster failure,” a lighthearted term used in animal welfare, which means the foster family fell in love with their foster pet and decided to adopt them. 

Best Friends Lifesaving Centers in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, New York City and Atlanta and their program in Houston are already seeing fosters get adopted at an impressive pace. Of the collective 1,600 animals placed in foster homes since the crisis began in mid-March, 914 — nearly 60% have already been adopted. In Salt Lake City, NYC, Atlanta and Houston, where “foster fails” are being tracked, and average of 22% of all animals adopted were adopted by their foster families.  In Salt Lake City, 46% of foster applicants indicated that they wanted to foster because they were interested in potentially adopting.

We expect that many people will get attached to their foster pets and discover that they enjoy having a pet around and choose to adopt in the coming weeks or months, if they haven’t already, Castle said. Many people who adopted or fostered during the pandemic will realize how easy it is to care for a pet and that they really do have time to have a pet around, even after they go back to work. By now many have undoubtedly discovered the secret that dogs and cats spend much of the day sleeping, whether someone is home or not. Plenty of people work full time jobs and provide loving homes to foster or adopted pets.

Best Friends has even created a weekend adoption event, May 7-10 to thank folks for fostering a shelter pet, and to encourage those who are on the fence to take the leap and adopt their foster. 

Your can learn more about the Foster Win Campaign here.