Published Oct. 16, 2014
ASK AN EXPERT
JENNIFER VLAZNY, operations manager
What is involved with fostering a dog or cat?
A pregnant cat or dog. Kittens younger than 8 weeks old. A dog with health problems.
The Hinsdale Humane Society would not be able to accept any of these animals if it weren’t for the families who volunteer to provide foster care.
“The program is so invaluable because it allows us to help a lot of animals we wouldn’t be able to help,” said Jennifer Vlazny, operations manager for the humane society.
The shelter environment is too stressful for some animals, even though staff members do everything they can to make the animals comfortable. Foster homes are more healthy physically and emotionally for the animals, Vlazny said.
Just last year 176 kittens, 7 seven cats, 19 puppies and three dogs benefited from foster care.
“We do more felines than we do dogs,” she said.
The arrangement can be as short as one week, to allow a kitten to reach eight weeks of age or be treated for a cold. Other times the commitment is much longer.
“You get a pregnant cat or a pregnant dog, you could be talking three months,” Vlazny said.
Families who are interested must fill out an application and attend a presentation to make sure they are prepared to provide foster care.
“It’s not just playing with puppies and kittens,” Vlazny said. “You have to scoop litter boxes. Sometimes there is diarrhea. It’s a lot of commitment. It takes a lot of dedication.”
And it can be difficult, when the time comes, to give the animal back.
Vlazny knows that first hand. Six years ago she took in two foster kittens who needed to be bottle fed. They returned to the shelter when they were old enough to be adopted, but then they developed colds.
“I re-fostered them, and that was it,” she said. “That was my first failed foster.”
When an animal comes in that needs to be placed, Vlazny sends out an email to either the 21 families that foster cats or the 14 families who foster dogs. If the animal has special requirements (such as kittens that need to be bottle fed), she will contact only those families who are prepared to provide that care.
Vlazny will not place feral kittens in homes with young children, but other animals often benefit from the socialization.
“The foster homes are great. They keep the kids well-supervised,” Vlazny said.
The humane society supplies all necessary items, from food and medication to bowls and toys. Families fostering kittens also receive a scale so they can make sure the animal is gaining the necessary 4 ounces a week.
The orientation for foster families typically is held in the spring. Vlazny suggested interested residents check the website at hinsdalehumanesociety.org. Applications are available online and can be filled out at any time.
Vlazny hopes to expand the number of available foster families so the society can help even more animals that need extra care.
“Living in a cage is not the same as living in a wonderful warm home with daily TLC,” she said.
— by Pamela Lannom