Furever Home: Fostering allows shelters to provide better care for animals

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Shelter Cat
A cat available for adoption at the Homeward Animal Shelter. Chris Flynn / The Forum

The Homeward Animal shelter can only house about 40 animals at a time, but with the help of foster families they are able to expand their capacity and provide a better environment for the animals.

When Manager Heather Clyde began working at Homeward Animal Shelter in 2007, she had to go into pounds and figure out which animals could be saved. “Unfortunately at that time there weren’t as many rescues as there are now, or enough foster families available so a lot of animals were euthanized,” Clyde said. The first year Clyde worked at the shelter, 775 cats and 120 dogs were euthanized.

Clyde said the last two years have been busier than the previous two.


“I’m not sure what’s going on with that. I wish I could pinpoint it," Clyde said, noting that the shelter is actually seeing a decrease in the number of dogs in need. “In our community we don’t have a huge issue with stray dogs, but we do have an issue with stray cats.”

It didn’t happen overnight

Clyde: We are now at the point where no adoptable animals are being euthanized so that’s a huge relief. It took a lot of hard work, but it also took building a foster program and being able to take those animals even when the shelters are full. We really rely on foster families. We really rely on foster families when shelters are full or when an animal isn’t doing well ... without them we either have to turn animals away, or we have to have animals that are miserable in the shelter because they are not adjusting to the shelter. Fostering really does save lives, and it helps immensely in our community. We definitely wouldn’t be doing a 1,000 adoptions a year (1,073 in 2018) if we didn’t have foster families available for us.

Becoming a foster family

Clyde: People will ask about it while they are here at the shelter visiting. A lot of people will hear about it either when we put a plea out on Facebook saying we need fosters, or people will see the application online and fill it out, but all they have to do to become a foster family is fill out an application. We contact them, find out what their home setup is like and figure out what they’d like to foster and how they can help and once they are approved we get them set up with whatever animal will work best in their home.

Heather Clyde
Heather Clyde is the shelter manager at Homeward Animal Shelter. Chris Flynn / The Forum

Fostering helps the shelter

Clyde: For us, a big part of it is being able to save more lives because we can double, triple, quadruple our capacity by having foster families, but there are some animals that don’t do well in a shelter environment and they need a foster home in order to help them on their path as they go along to get adopted because some of them just are not going to do well surrounded by other animals or with all the noise. Some of the animals shut down, some act out, maybe even aggressively, but we move them into a foster family and find out they are the sweetest animal alive. Fostering really allows us to expand our capacity, but also provide a better environment for the animals that aren’t going to do as well in a stressful environment like the shelter. We don’t want people to think being a shelter is a bad thing because it’s a good thing. We are finding the animals homes, and they are safe while they are here. They get the medical care they need. Some people see animals behind bars and their hearts break because they are afraid those animals are going to be euthanized, things like that. They are safe here. We are going to get them everything they need, and we are going to find them a family to love.

Fosters help with different types of situations

Clyde: Call us and talk to us. That’s probably one of the first steps to see if it’s something you are willing to do. We can have fosters help us with a number of different types of situations. We have fosters who only do bottle-baby kittens. We have fosters who only take in moms with kittens. That’s fairly easy. You just put mom and the kittens in a room and mom takes care of the babies and you just feed mom. We get adult cats that just need a break from the shelter. We get cats with medical needs so we need fosters that are capable of giving medication. We have people that take in orphan kittens and raise them. They do such a great job because those kittens are then socialized and are usually adopted really quick. We have a lot of people with different levels of expertise. It’s just finding a comfort level and finding animals that work best with your situation.

For more information on fostering go to


Chris Flynn is an audio/visual journalist at The Forum. He graduated with a bachelor’s in online journalism from Minnesota State University Moorhead. Flynn has worked at Forum Communications since 2008.

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