May 20, 2020
Categories: Foster Programs

The COVID-19 pandemic has empowered many animal welfare organizations to make operational changes such as the introductions of telemedicine, virtual adoptions and a huge uptick in fostering. Will we go back to the way things were? This interview with Greg Lucas, founder of Shelterluv the the second in a three-part series examining these very changes. You can also read the first post if you missed it.   

It’s a problem that we should all be so lucky to have. Too many fosters and not enough pets.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals flocked to animal shelter and rescue organization websites and filled out foster applications in record numbers. Due to demand outpacing supply, many hopeful foster caregivers went away empty handed. So, now what? 

Greg Lucas, founder of Shelterluv, shelter and rescue management software that tracks animals, inventory, and customer relationships, says you need to nurture those potential fosters, not ignore them. During a recent presentation that he and his team put together, he shared that one client was overwhelmed by the applications and wanted the feature turned off. His advice? Don’t do that!  

Unfortunately, as more and more people lose their jobs, tough choices will have to be made. It’s not hyperbolic to say that these truly are uncertain times. With unemployment claims currently at 36.5 million in the last two months, people’s economic and housing situations will change. And sadly, with those changes, sometimes will come the rehoming of pets. “It’s not hard to imagine another million animals could hit our system in the coming months,” Lucas said. “Our industry is very sensitive to fluctuation in supply and demand.” 

Now is the time to seize on the community’s goodwill. According to Shelterluv’s data, adoption applications have doubled and donations have increased. Lucas recommends keeping your trusted, experienced foster homes empty and get those new fosters involved. Utilize experienced fosters to mentor the new ones. Those new fosters will become more experienced and better equipped to take on a variety of pets, which will come in handy should your intake increase later in the year. “We need to be pre-building foster supply now in anticipation in what’s coming,” said Lucas.  

And for those interested fosters who are foster-less, you want to acknowledge them. Reach out and thank them for their interest, for taking the time to fill out an application and that you anticipate needing them in the future. Don’t squander that goodwill by ignoring them. They may not feel so compelled to help months later if they will they were not acknowledged earlier. “Make sure their efforts feel valued,” Lucas said. “Try to communicate that you do anticipate needing them. I would consider treating this group of new people separately. If done well, these folks will still be with you.” 

We hope of course, that will not be an influx of animals several months from now, but it’s important to be realistic and prepare now and get those foster homes ready. Foster is the future, but the future is now.