Do you have a big heart but limited time? Try fostering instead

Cute kitties like these could use a home. The animal shelter welcomes opportunities for those who are willing to foster a pet.   - Journal file photos
Cute kitties like these could use a home. The animal shelter welcomes opportunities for those who are willing to foster a pet.
— image credit: Journal file photos

Do you love animals but don’t have the time or funds for a full-time pet? If so, fostering may be for you.

Crowded shelters on the mainland are always in need of foster parents, and the islands’ facilities are no different.

“If folks feel like they can’t adopt a dog or cat because they travel frequently or are only part-time residents, then fostering can be a great solution,” said Orcas Animal Shelter Director Marsha Waunch. “They can enjoy a pet for the time they have available.”

Shelters can be high stress environments for animals – strangers coming to visit and being in a kennel can cause anxiety. One solution is placing the cat or dog in a temporary home until a permanent adopter comes forward.

“We have a foster mother who is really into helping out the old dogs,” said Friday Harbor Animal Shelter Director Leslie Byron. “She keeps them all the way until the end if she can.”

The local shelters provide food and medical care for pets placed in foster families. If a potential adopter is interested in seeing the animal, they can either visit the home or make an arrangement to meet at the shelter.

“Some foster families end up keeping the dog or cat,” Byron said. “They become part of the family.”

In Friday Harbor, there is a particular need for people willing to care for new born kittens, which means bottle feeding them until they are ready to live full-time at the shelter.

The Lopez Animal Protection Society, which doesn’t have a facility, relies entirely on foster volunteers. The non-profit seldom receives dogs but has a high number of cat surrenders.

“We have a need – not as great as the other islands – but we do need foster homes,” said Director Joyce Myhr.

Edith Edwards purchased a farm on Lopez Island after her retirement and has taken in a host of unwanted animals, including a horse, a pony, three sheep, a rooster, hens, cats and dogs.

“Fostering is wonderful if one has the space – they have a safe place, even if it’s temporarily,” Edwards said. “It is so needed because on Lopez we don’t have a facility. I hope more people both foster and adopt – there are so many animals in need.”

She said the most rewarding part of her rescue farm is watching the transformation of her critters.

“Many of them were afraid of people but over time they become so loving,” Edwards said. “It’s a healing and beautiful thing. It’s very special.”

On Orcas, there is a senior mastiff mix named Bubba who hasn’t had any interest from potential adopters. Waunch says he is an ideal candidate for a foster family. He doesn’t require much exercise and is happy to just lay in the sun but can’t be in a home with cats or very small children.

Currently, the Orcas shelter has three cats in foster situations. One is permanent but the other two will be returning soon.

“We have several cats right now that would really benefit from a foster family,” Waunch said.

According to, to be a successful foster parent, you need a compassionate nature, the cooperation of your family or roommates, flexibility and some knowledge of animal behavior.  The length of time a foster pet may stay in your home varies with the animal’s situation.

“It can also be very difficult to let go once you have become emotionally attached to an animal,” according to the website. “Be prepared for tears and heartache when the day comes that you must bring your first foster pet back to the shelter. But remember, he or she is now much more likely to find a loving, permanent home because of the care you gave them.”

Contact the shelters

Orcas Animal Protection Society:, 376-6777.

Friday Harbor Animal Shelter:, 378-2158.

Lopez Animal Protection Society:, 468-2258.


We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 26
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates