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South Valley Journal

Fostering saves lives in more ways than one

Mar 25, 2021 12:01PM ● By Katy Whittingham

Hugh, a mixed breed medical foster from Salt Lake County Animal Services, at his foster home in Sandy.

By Katy Whittingham | [email protected] 

Animal shelters and rescues around the country have reported an increase of people fostering animals during the pandemic. Fostering provides room for shelters to take in more animals and helps place the animal in a well-fit forever home. 

Christelle Del Prete works for Best Friends Animal Society with their sanctuary in Kanab and shelters and networks around the country, including their Best Friends Lifesaving Center in Sugar House. “Pets thrive in homes, not shelters,” she said. “And it’s a beautiful thing when communities come together to care for their homeless animals as so many people have done during the pandemic.”

Even nearly one year into the pandemic, many people still find themselves working or going to school fully or partially remotely, so this increase in time at home certainly is a contributing factor to both increases in adoptions and fostering. For the foster family of a 9-month-old mixed breed dog, Hugh, a medical foster from Salt Lake County Animal Services, this was the case with all three members of the family working or attending school at least partially remotely. 

Hugh came to Salt Lake County Animal Services as a stray with a hip injury that he had “for a good amount of time,” and required surgery. After the surgery that the shelter provided, Hugh needed to receive physical therapy, time to heal, and encouragement to use his back leg again, so he was placed in a foster home where they could make this commitment. 

In addition to helping Hugh heal, his foster family helped to further determine information a potential adopter might be interested in, such as was he good with other dogs, good with children, afraid of men or people in general, good with cats, and so on. Also how well trained he was, how well he did riding in the car, how well he walked on a leash, how well he did in a crate both during the day and at night, and if he had any signs of separation anxiety. 

In Hugh’s case, he seemed to do well with everyone and everything, which surprised one of his fosters, Matt Ackley of Sandy. “I had wrongly assumed since he was a stray that he would require a lot more behavioral training, but he truly is an amazing dog, especially considering his circumstances and young age.” 

Since Hugh made tremendous progress in his recovery and proved to be a great example of how resilient and loving animals can still be even when humans initially fail them, he was able to meet with a potential adopter ahead of schedule. When it was deemed a good fit, the adoptive family agreed to continue his therapy, and he went to his new forever home after only three weeks post-surgery and with his foster. Ackley said that one concern he had about fostering was that their child, a second-grader, would get too attached especially because she was one of the main caretakers of Hugh, and they developed a quick and close bond, but it helped that she got to meet the new adoptive family that included two young girls around her age. She knew upon meeting them that they would continue to love and take care of Hugh like she did. 

“Because more and more people are opening their hearts and homes to homeless pets, I truly believe we can put an end to the unnecessary killing of cats and dogs in our country’s shelters and begin to celebrate all the precious lives we’ve saved,” Del Prete said. 

There are several ways to reach out locally if you are interested in fostering, adopting or helping dogs and cats in our area in any way by checking out rescue and shelter websites and social media pages. The website for Salt Lake Animal Services is slco.org/animal-services and the Foster and Outreach Coordinator Megan Allred can be reached by email at [email protected]

Best Friends continues to promote a “Save Them All” approach and a “No Kill 2025” meaning the goal is “saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved” and “healing the animals who can be healed, treating behaviors that can be treated, and prioritizing safety and a high quality of life for both pets and people in our communities.” More information and links to locally foster and adopt can be found on their website bestfriends.org