Foster Parent Q&A

You can make a huge difference in an animal’s life as a foster parent for Calgary Humane Society. These animals require a little bit of extra attention, love, and socialization outside the shelter. If you don’t have the time to volunteer with us but would still like to be involved, opening your home to a foster pet is a great way to assist us in our mission to help as many animals as we can.

We often receive questions about what it takes to be a foster parent, from the time commitment, to the type of home, to the level of knowledge required. Being a foster parent isn’t always easy, but it is something that can fit within most lifestyles!

Why should I become a foster parent?

We could give you a hundred reasons why fostering is great for animals, but here’s a few reasons why fostering is great for people, too:

  • Fostering is a flexible and valuable first volunteering opportunity for kids.
  • It’s a chance to test out living with a species you might have been considering adopting before taking the plunge.
  • There’s no long-term commitment to an animal: if you’re concerned that your children will lose interest, you can foster before adopting to see if they’ll stick with their vows to always walk and feed the dog, for example.
  • Fostering allows you to have a pet at home even if you travel often for work. The CHS foster animal is always welcome to return to shelter while you’re away!
  • It is a rewarding experience for you as you help a pet recover, adjust, or become more socialized, increasing their chances for a quick adoption.

What do I need to be a foster parent?

All you really need to be a successful foster parent is a lot of love. You’ll need to apply online and then meet with our foster team for an interview, but no need to be scared of that! We promise they’re really nice. Basic requirements include:

  • You must own your home, or have permission from your landlord to have animals on the property.
  • You must have reliable access to a vehicle to pick up the animal and supplies, and to transport them to veterinary appointments or in the event of an emergency.

I work odd hours or am away for extended periods of time. Can I still be a foster parent?

Yes! Some of our foster placements are for a few days, and some are for a few months. If you’re going away for work or a vacation, your foster can be returned to Calgary Humane Society for the duration of your trip or to find a new foster family. Every break from shelter life is beneficial. We are grateful for any time that you can give our animals, even if it’s short.

I am apprehensive of certain animals due to allergies or fear. Can I pick the type of animal that I foster?

You sure can! We have lots of foster parents that only foster cats, dogs, or exotics, based on their own preferences and how comfortable they are with a species. We will never ask you to take on a dog if you only want to foster cats, for example. CHS foster parents can set their own stipulations for species, breed, and size of animal preferred. You can choose when you want to take in a foster, and more importantly, you can choose who they want to foster. The foster team may reach out with a request once they get to know the foster parents, however there is never any pressure or deadline to take an animal in.

Can I have other animals in my home while fostering?

Yes! Many of our foster parents have their own pets. Depending on the animal that you foster for Calgary Humane Society, it may be necessary to have a separate room or space for your foster animal. Your pets at home will need to be up to date on their vaccinations too. The foster team recommends keeping the foster and resident animals separate to avoid risk of disease transmission or fights. Slow introductions can take place after two weeks, as symptoms of illness are generally noted within this time (though there’s no guarantee). Interactions should always be monitored.

What if my foster pet and I don’t get along?

If your foster animal is not a good fit for your household or for you, you can return a foster animal at any time. We want to ensure that the experience is a positive one for foster parents and animals so please do not hesitate to return your foster pet if it is not working out.

Can friends or family look after my foster animal while I’m away?

Yes. Any family members or friends that will be looking after your foster pet need to be onboarded as a foster parent by our Foster team ahead of time. This is a great way to share the fostering experience with loved ones.

What resources are available to me as a foster parent?

As a foster parent, you’ll get to work with lots of our departments within Calgary Humane Society, depending on the needs of your animal. We are here to support you! You can call our behaviour helpline with questions about your foster pet’s behaviour at 403-723-6019 or email behaviour@calgaryhumane.ca. You can also call our call centre at 403-205-4455 with questions about your pet’s health, fostering, adopting, and anything else. We’ll ensure you’re put through to someone who can assist you.

Our Foster team is available from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. for phone calls and emails, and there are three 24-hour vet clinics in the city that we work with in case of emergency or if you need after-hours guidance.

Do I have to buy my own supplies?

No! Calgary Humane Society supplies everything for your foster pet, from bowls, to food, toys, and beds. We will also cover the costs of any appointments or medication that your foster animal requires while in your care. Any classes with our Behaviour team that Calgary Humane Society deems appropriate for your foster dog are covered as well!

Do I need to know everything about owning a certain type of animal in order to foster it?

No. We will help you and set you up with the right equipment and supplies for each type of animal. If you have any questions, our teams are always available to help!

guinea pig in tunnel

Do I have to take my foster animal to appointments?

Each animal in our care – and your care – will have different requirements. Some will need surgeries, recheck exams, training classes, or follow up appointments. If you are able to take your foster to their appointment, that’s great! If not, they can be dropped off at Calgary Humane Society the night before or morning of their appointment and we will arrange a driver for them.

Can I share my foster animal on social media?

Any foster animals that are available for adoption (i.e., are visible on our website) as adopt-from-foster can be shared freely on social media. Animals in foster, emergency boarding, pet safekeeping, and any others not cleared for adoption cannot be shared on social media or any other public forum (Facebook groups, Reddit, etc.). We do encourage you to take lots of cute photos throughout your time together, however, so that you can share them as soon as your foster animal is cleared for adoption!

How much will I know about my potential foster animal before I make the decision to bring them home?

When looking at our foster list, a list only available to approved foster parents, you’ll get a quick snapshot of the animal’s needs. You’ll also be able to see how long we think they’ll require fostering for, and any other relevant information. If there’s anything else you need to know before taking the animal home, we’ll let you know! Foster parents can ask as many questions as they like before committing to fostering an animal. At time of pick up, the animal’s medical file is shared with all relevant information, including appointment, surgery, and vaccine dates.

Can I adopt my foster?

If you have decided that you and your foster pet are meant for each other, you can contact the Foster Facilitator and request to adopt. Please note that just because you have requested to adopt a foster pet, it does not necessarily mean that the adoption will be approved. First, the animal must be cleared for adoption before you can formally apply to adopt them. There are a lot of factors that go into the adoption application and you will need to go through this process like any other potential adopter. We cannot place an adoption hold on owned animals taking part in our boarding programs or seized animals, but we can still place a note of interest on the animal’s file in the event that the hold is released.

Will my foster pet definitely go up for adoption?

Generally, the answer is yes. However, for health or quality of life reasons, an animal may be deemed unadoptable. We do not euthanize for space or time and do not take this decision lightly. Euthanasia decisions are only made in cases of severe health (where we are unable to end an animal’s suffering through treatment) or behaviour issues (where an animal is considered a danger to themselves or the community). We will communicate with you if there are any potential issues with your foster pet being adopted. Some animals are owned, such as those in our boarding programs, or are part of a protection investigation. These animals may not be made available for adoption as they may be returned to their owners.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent or have questions, please contact our Foster team at 403-205-4455 or visit our Foster page. Ready to take the next step and apply to be a foster parent? Fill out our online application!