October 28, 2021
Categories: Foster Programs

Earlier this week, we shared a blog post about research from University of Michigan Health confirming that hospitalized patients need help with their pets. This post is a follow up with Matt Pepper, President and CEO of Michigan Humane Society, sharing what steps they’ve made to help hospitalized pet owners and how other animal welfare organizations can, too.

Does your animal welfare organization have a program to help hospitalized pet owners care for their pets? Recent research shows that it’s common for pet parents to rush their hospital stays in order to get home to care for their pets. So, how can your animal welfare organization help?

Matt Pepper, President and CEO of Michigan Humane Society (MHS), shares some details of the simple program his organization has been working on. While the program is still small, it’s effective, with a handful of pets currently in foster care for people receiving medical care.

“It’s in our plan to start small. We have about a dozen foster homes ready and waiting for referrals from hospital social workers who are helping patients in pre-surgical visits,” said Pepper. “The social worker pre-screens with some questions we provide about their animals in need of fostering then the patient is referred directly to our contact person.”

From that point, the MHS staff arranges a home visit to “assess” the animal(s) to ensure all their health records are current and that they are behaviorally appropriate. The patient signs a temporary foster agreement which allows MHS to care for the animal(s) while in our care and custody.  The agreement is good for up to 60 days and allows for relinquishment if the patient is not able to take the animal(s) back or cannot rehome. The agreement can be extended as needed.

Wondering how your organization (and community) can start creating programs and building relationships with your local hospitals? Pepper suggests reaching out to hospital social workers first. “Start a dialogue with them about unmet needs. Sometimes, just asking the question can open the door; but unless there is awareness of a pet’s impact on decisions about health care, the health care professionals may not know to ask,” he said. “Discuss which patients are in need of the services, what they (social workers) are seeing and the unmet needs associated with companion animals.”

When you finally make your program available, Pepper says to be prepared for an onslaught of referrals, as it can be a challenge to meet the demand without dozens and even hundreds of available foster homes. On the plus side, he says, “We have found that there is some desire in the public to offer up their homes for this type of fostering since it is often supporting the most vulnerable (older adults) seeking serious healthcare services.”

Does your organization offer a similar program? Or do you have questions? Tell us more on Maddie’s Pet Forum!