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Johnson County Humane Society

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Fostering An Animal

|   Why Foster Care?  |   Profile of A Foster Caregiver  |   So, Is FosterCare for Me?  |   What FosterCare Entails  |   JCHS Provides the Health Care   |   Bringing Your Foster Animal Home   |  Maintaining a Clean Household   |  The Inspection/Evaluation Process   |  


Why Foster Care?

Because even in our enlightened community, there have always been more animals in need of shelter than resources available to help them.

One of the advantages of our in-home FosterCare Program is that we live with our animals 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’ve seen them at their best and worst. We’ve experienced each animal as an individual with a unique combination of attributes and needs. This results in better information for better adoptive matches.

JCHS is licensed by the State to foster animals in our homes.

We always have a need for additional foster homes.

Please consider fostering an animal.

It’s very rewarding work.

And, it saves

lives.

 

The Profile of a Foster Caregiver

Value System
Is committed to helping animals as a way of life.

Treats animals with respect.

Understands that love is not enough. Has thought about what “quality of life” entails.
Is able to have the animal’s best interests at heart. Is willing to work until the task at hand gets done.
Considers animals to be integral parts of families. Encourages good behavior with praise and attention, and corrects negative behaviors by providing positive alternatives.
Knowledge Base
Has a general understanding of and responds to the key requirements for the well-being of companion animals.
Is prepared to spend the time it takes to learn about and apply the appropriate age-specific methods of socializing, training, and behavior modification for companion animals.
Skills
Is organized.

Recognizes an emergency when one arises.

Is resourceful and a good problem-solver. Has the ability to prioritize.
Able to ask for clarification when needed. Practices good listening skills.
Personality Attributes
Tends to be altruistic, other-centered. Has a sense of humor.
Is independent yet able to play by the rules. Is flexible.
Is intuitive and observant. Is proactive and demonstrates good common sense.
Is compassionate. Is nonjudgmental.
Is trainable. Is not bound to preconceptions.

OK, ok, so not every single JCHS Foster Caregiver radiates each one of these characteristics, but most of us do have most of these attributes in common.

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So, Is Foster Care for Me?

Photo: cats, Izzy, Roxie, and Spot on the bed.

Providing foster care is like adopting an animal on a temporary basis. There is the immediate reward of knowing that you’re actively doing something to help an animal in need, but there are a number of other things to take into thoughtful consideration.

 Does your lease or housing situation legally allow you to keep pets?

 Do the other humans in your household share your desire to provide foster care?

 Does your own schedule allow ample time to look after the foster animal and consistently provide the loving attention he requires?

 Are you committed to caring for the foster animal until she finds a permanent home (which could take several months)?

 Will someone be home to provide meals according to a fixed schedule?

 How many companion animals do you already have and how accepting toward a new addition are they likely to be?

 Are you willing to comply with the FosterCare guidelines set by the JCHS?

 Are you willing and able to “animal-proof” the areas of your household to which the foster animal will have access? (Consider the placement of houseplants; window blinds; breakable items; electrical cords; fences; areas that would provide hiding places inaccessible to humans; etc.)

 Is the level of attention that you regularly pay to home hygiene consistent with that necessary to maintain a safe and behaviorally-positive environment?

(We’re all busy and everyone has their unique tolerance for disorder, but some common situations invite bad habits at best, if not disaster: e.g., plastic bags left on the floor not only become magnets for cat urine, but can also suffocate an animal; even a half-teaspoon from a puddle of antifreeze in the garage or on the driveway can cause an agonizing death due to kidney failure.)

 Are you familiar enough with basic animal health that you would notice if the foster animal became ill?

 Do you have the patience and flexibility to work with an animal who (for whatever reason) may exhibit undesirable behavior?

 Will you be comfortable with having potential adopters come to your home to see the animal? (Other arrangements can be made.)

 If you’re considering a puppy or a kitten, are you prepared to spend the time it takes to learn about and apply the appropriate age-specific methods of socializing and training the animal requires before he reaches adolescence?

 Will you be able to pay for the food and pet-care supplies the animal will need in maintenance of her well-being? (Under some circumstances, the JCHS is able to supply food.)

 Given that the JCHS pays for veterinary care, are you able to take the foster animal to the vet for periodic examinations and any emergency treatment he may need?

 Are you familiar enough with animal behavior that you could provide basic re-training (with help) if necessary?

 If you’re considering a foster dog, are you willing to exercise her at least twice a day, according to a set schedule?

 Are you willing to obey your local community’s leash laws?

 Is there an adult willing to be a backup caregiver for you in the event that an emergency or a vacation takes you away from your home temporarily?

 Do you have a disaster preparedness plan in place for your animals in the event your house catches on fire; a tornado hits your property; a flood or hazardous materials spill initiates a neighborhood evacuation; or a blizzard isolates your home for more than a few days? (This is an on-going process. We’ll help you get started!)

 Will you be able to provide the loving support this animal requires now, yet still be able to let him or her go when an appropriate permanent home is found?

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If you could honestly answer YES! to each of these questions, chances are that your lifestyle and level of commitment are such that you would be a responsible foster caregiver. Download our Foster Caregiver Application a file you can download, print, and send in.

The FosterCaregiver Application is a PDF file. If you don’t already have Adobe’s Acrobat Reader (the application necessary to read PDF files), you can download it free by clicking the button below:

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What FosterCare Entails

Legal Aspects

Although we do not own or operate an animal sheltering facility, our adoption program has always had a short-term, in-home foster-care component. The Code of Iowa specifies a number of provisions for the care of animals in licensed facilities, however, until recently, state law made no provision for in-home foster care (i.e., it was not legal. Providing in-home foster care was operating an animal shelter without a license).

In 1995, we began working with the state Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and two local veterinarians to convert our foster-care component to a licensable program. We now have a contractual relationship with each foster caregiver, regular site visitations and evaluations, and annual state licensing of the JCHS as a sheltering organization which extends to each foster home.

In April 2007, our pilot program with the state of Iowa resulted in a provision in the Iowa Administrative Code, legalizing in-home fostercare.

Our FosterCare Goals and How We Meet Them

We prepare unwanted animals to be matched with caring people who can provide “forever homes”healthy, loving homes for the life of the animal. Immediate methods we employ to reach this goal are to

 alleviate suffering

 evaluate health status and behavior

 improve the quality of health care

 improve living conditions immediately

Think of JCHS as the place of last resort for animals who have or are about to become homeless. Our case-by-case triage system begins with the question:  “Can this animal’s needs (taking age, gender, health, temperament, and behavior into consideration) be served anywhere or by anyone else?”

Potential solutions could involve educational or medical resources; increased responsibility of the owner, friends, or relatives; the municipal animal shelter; commercial boarding; etc. These potential solutions must be exhausted before the next question:  “Does JCHS have the resources to help?” is asked.

JCHS resources could involve an equipment loan, a behavior or animal communication consult, money for emergency veterinary care in the form of a gift or loan, fostercare in an appropriate home, etc.

Cases are dealt with individually. Unfortunately, not everyone can be helped. Animals we have been able to help include those who were:

 found roaming at large

 abandoned in empty apartments and houses

 caught in leg-hold traps

 left without a home due to a caregiver’s death or incapacity

 victims of traffic accidents

 relinquished by owners for all sorts of reasons

 left unclaimed at veterinary clinics

 victims of abuse or neglect, or

 referred to us by a social service agency, the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center, or a local veterinarian.

Photo:  cats Raoul and Spot cuddling.
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Preparing Your Household

Grafic:  Two kittens.

We are all creatures of habit and most of us are somewhat resistant to change. Stressful reactions to change are common in human and non-human animals alike.

Even changes viewed as “positive” can cause stress.

Bringing a new animal into your home is a stressful event that will alter the balance of your family at least temporarily.

Already Have Pets?

Providing in-home foster care puts existing pets at risk for contagious diseases, internal and external parasites, and stress-related conditions. Be sure that your companions are in good health and that vaccinations are current.

Don’t even think about fostering an animal if one of your permanent residents is ill or has a persistent health or behavior problem. It’s your ethical responsibility to ensure the health maintenance of your companion animals.

Minimum Provisions for Cats

 already spayed or neutered

 current rabies vaccination

 current distemper combination vaccination

 negative feline leukemia/immunodeficiency virus test

 current feline leukemia vaccination

 although there is no accurate test yet for FIP, there is a vaccine—check with your veterinarian about its efficacy

Minimum Provisions for Dogs

 already spayed or neutered

 current rabies vaccination

 current distemper combination vaccination

 negative heartworm test

 current heartworm preventive

Ongoing Health Maintenance for Your Pets

 schedule fecal exams every six months and treat as necessary (providing separate food/water dishes and yards/litter boxes/scoops, until the risk of internal parasites is past and the fecal recheck is negative)

 check often for earmites, fleas, and ticks and treat as necessary

About Intestinal Parasites

Tape worms and lung worms can usually be eradicated with one worming. Round worms (and sometimes hook worms and whip worms) require a second and sometimes a third worming at 14-day intervals to kill the larvae. Animals with internal parasites should not share litter boxes/scoops/yards with uninfested animals for at least 14 days or until a fecal sample tests negative.

About Fleas

Flea infestations can escalate overnight and have life-threatening consequences due to severe, irreversible anemia. Animals who are very young, ill, or elderly are at special risk.

The life cycle of the flea is 14 days and most of its time is spent off the animal, so remember that animals and their environments must be treated accordingly. For minor infestations, this entails a schedule of

 washing bedding and rugs;

 vacuuming everything (toss the bag immediately afterward);

 daily use of a flea comb; and

 perhaps treating the yard.

Home chemical treatment is not always necessary.

Chemicals used to kill fleas are toxic and must be used with care. Using some flea collars in conjunction with sprays, or powders can be fatal. Growth inhibitors must be used according to the directions to be effective. Don’t used products designated for dogs on cats. Not all products are appropriate for all ages or species.

Photo: cats Odie and bud cuddling on the bed.
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Space Considerations

The quality of the space you can provide is more important than the quantity of space available.

Some cats are “cave dwellers” who enjoy curling up in nooks and crannies, others are “mountain climbers” who seek overlooks on window sills, shelves, and bookcases.

Most dogs appreciate a fenced-in area where they can safely run and play outside.

Disaster Preparedness

Thoughtful preparation for emergencies is probably something most people have never done. Different disasters require different plans, but they all have some common needs:

 a written protocol to follow for each plan

 a reliable individual to back you up and make decisions on behalf of your animals if you become incapacitated

 a safe place for everyone to go

 identification and health records for each animal

 a method to safely confine/transport/restrain each animal

 a three-day supply of potable water, food, necessary medication, (and litter for cats).

Please spend some quality time preparing for the unexpected. We’ll be working together, as a group, to brainstorm minimum requirements.

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JCHS Provides the Health Care for Foster Animals

Our first action is to confine the foster animal in isolation (usually at a veterinary clinic) to evaluate its health and be reasonably sure it is not contagious to others. When JCHS animals are advertised, they are described as being up-to-date on rabies/distemper combination vaccinations and spayed or neutered according to age.

Cats have tested negative to feline leukemia virus (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and dogs have tested negative for heartworm. Exceptions to these standards are few but they do occur.

Protocol for Adult Foster Cats

  test for FeLV and FIV and evaluate if positive. (Asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cats who test FeLV-positive can throw off the disease, but they usually stay with the veterinarian until they test negative.

Asymptomatic cats who test FIV-positive are not much of a risk for other cats unless they deliver a deep bite. They must be kept separate from but may live in the same room with others. Mildly symptomatic cats usually stay with the veterinarian.)

 check fecal sample and begin treatment if necessary (if positive, keep isolated from other animals for 14 days)

 check for earmites and begin treatment if necessary

 check for fleas/ticks and treat if necessary

 if no signs of illness develop by Day 4, vaccinate for distemper (or simply wait until Day 6 and vaccinate for both distemper and rabies)

 if no signs of illness develop by Day 6, vaccinate for rabies

 administer second distemper shot 14 days after the first.

Protocol for Adult Foster Dogs

 test for heart worm and evaluate for prophylaxis if necessary. (Dogs who test positive may be able to withstand treatment, however, they must stay inside away from mosquitoes and maintain a quiet lifestyle for 6-8 weeks.)

 check fecal sample and begin treatment if necessary (if positive, keep isolated from other animals for 14 days)

 check for earmites and begin treatment if necessary

 check for fleas/ticks and treat if necessary

 if no signs of illness develop by Day 4, vaccinate for distemper (or simply wait until Day 6 and vaccinate for both distemper and rabies)

 if no signs of illness develop by Day 6, vaccinate for rabies

 administer second distemper shot 14 days after the first.

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Protocol for Foster Kittens and Puppies

Photo: four kittens in a row, relaxing on a towel.

 test cats for FeLV and FIV at 8-10 weeks of age and evaluate if positive. (Asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic kittens who test FeLV positive can throw off the disease, but they usually stay with the veterinarian until they test negative.

 asymptomatic kittens who test FIV positive are not much of a risk for other cats unless they deliver a deep bite. They must be kept separate from but may live in the same room with others. Mildly symptomatic cats usually stay with the veterinarian.)

 test dogs for heart worm at 6 months of age and evaluate for prophylaxis if necessary. (Dogs who test positive may be able to withstand treatment, however, they must stay inside away from mosquitoes and maintain a quiet lifestyle for 6-8 weeks.)

 check fecal sample and begin treatment if necessary (if positive, keep isolated from other animals for 14 days)

 check for earmites and begin treatment if necessary

 check for fleas/ticks and treat if necessary

 provide first distemper-combination vaccination at 6-8 weeks, second at 9-10 weeks, (third at 10-12 weeks-dogs only)

 provide rabies vaccination at 3-4 months.

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Bringing Your Foster Animal Home

The transition period when animals are introduced to new surroundings (whether these surroundings include other animals or not) has a lasting, tone-setting potential. It’s important to plan carefully.

 Initially, limit your foster animal to one room (or a Kitty Haven or a kennel within a separate room) instead of allowing access to the entire house (which is often overwhelming).

Graphic:  Dog unwrapping a box with a kitten inside.

Put everything your foster animal needs (food and water dishes, bed, toys, litter box, etc.) in this area. If there are other animals in your home, keep the door shut. Make sure the foster animal has enough quiet time to himself to explore and feel safe.

 Once the animal seems comfortable in the original space and trusting of you, expand her access a little at a time by making other rooms available. If you already have pets, there are many methods of introduction. We’ll work together to pick the one most appropriate to your circumstances.

 If your foster animal has not spent at least six days in isolation at a veterinary clinic, keep her completely isolated (see above) from other animals for six days.

 Consider putting a screened door on your “initial” room (so the animals canwhen they choose tosee and sniff, but not hurt one another). Confining your foster animal in a Kitty Haven or kennel within this room can also provide safe see-and-sniff access to all.

  Introduce the newbie to permanent residents under close supervision (not while you’re using the phone, watching TV, or reading, etc.). Use short periods of time and aim to end on positive notes. You might want to use a halter/leash at first to ensure safety.
Graphic:  Two cats hugging.
Graphic:  Friendly cat leaning against resistant dog.

 Be aware that your natural tendency will be to lavish attention on the newcomer. If you have other animals, try not to make a fuss over the newbie while they are watching. Remember that they are likely to feel jealous of the newcomer, so plan on spending some extra-special quality time with them.

Tell them how proud you are of them for helping you create a comfortable place for the new animal to stay!

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Maintaining a Clean Household

Those of us providing foster care need to be “beyond reproach” regarding sanitation and efforts to reduce disease-causing organisms. This may seem like a no-brainer, but peoples’ perceptions of “clean” vary widely.

State law specifies a number of provisions for the care of animals. We use the regulations pertaining to animals in commercial establishments as a standard. The specific chapter in the Code of Iowa is 162Care of Animals in Commercial Establishments.

Although the surfaces in our homes may differ (e.g., wood floors, carpeting, sheet vinyl, etc.), we all have an equal amount of control over the cleanliness of food and water dishes, litter boxes/scoops, and the vertical and floor surfaces of Kitty Havens and kennels.

Animals are innately disinclined to eliminate in their dens. We capitalize on this when crate-training dogs or using a Kitty Haven to re-train a cat to her litter box. It is important to note that animals confined to close quarters are at greater risk for fecal/oral bacterial contamination than those “at large” in our homes. Kitty Havens and kennels represent a significant investment for our organization. Their upkeep is important. Although wire surfaces are plated or painted, they will rust if they are exposed to moisture for very long.

In Code of Iowa § 162.2 (14), a “primary enclosure” is defined as any structure used to immediately restrict an animal to a limited amount of space, such as a room, pen, cage, or compartment. Kitty Havens and kennels certainly fit this description.

When animals are confined in Kitty Havens or kennels, special care must be taken to ensure that their environment is kept very clean. Adhering to the following schedule ensures minimal compliance with the state law regarding the maintenance of animals in primary enclosures. These rules are intended to protect animal health.

Every 24 hours:

 wash/sanitize food and water bowls

 scoop litter boxes at least once

Every 48 hours:

 wash/sanitize litter boxes

 wash/sanitize the primary enclosure

Cleansers and Sanitizers

Washing and sanitizing can be done in one step, depending on which product you use. There are any number of cleaning products (many are cruelty free) on the market. Read labels carefully.

 Fort Dodge Labs sells a concentrated disinfecting product called Nolvasan, which is used by many veterinarians. Keeping an appropriate dilution in a spray bottle makes it convenient to use. We'll be happy to outfit you with some.

 A disinfecting solution effective on most viruses can be made using household chlorine bleach diluted 1:32 with water (e.g., 1 cup bleach to 2 gallons of water; 1/2 cup to 1 gal; 1/4 cup to 1/2 gal; 1/8 cup to 1/4 gal). A detergent (e.g., dishwashing liquid; but not sudsing ammonia) can be added to improve the wetting action.

Mixing ammonia with bleach results in a LETHAL gasjust don’t go there. In addition, ammonia and urine have enough chemistry in common to be cousins. Cats who are indiscriminate pee-ers are often drawn to areas where ammonia has been used.

 Liquid enzymatic “digesters” are designed to break down proteins and fats (components of vomit, feces, blood, urine, etc.), thus removing stains and odors. They may be used on a variety of surfaces and in the washing machine. No home with animals should be without these enzymes! There is a fine line of enzyme products produced and sold locally:  Natures Nonscents by Krueger Enterprises.

 Avoid cleaners containing phenol (Pine-sol, Lysol, etc.) as this chemical is particularly TOXIC to cats.

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The Inspection/Evaluation Process

Don’t allow your attitude toward this process scare you away from our FosterCare Program! Yearly inspection and evaluation is to insure the health and safety of the animals we care fornot to check up on your color scheme, paw through your freezer, or judge how well you’ve been dusting.

We conduct mock evaluations with new foster-caregivers-in-training. In addition, the FosterCare Coordinator is present at every inspection/evaluation. Think of this as a learning experience rather than a test of your home hygiene abilities.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has certified two local veterinarians (Dennis Cowles, Coralville Animal Clinic and Paul Cooper, The University of Iowa) to inspect/evaluate our foster homes.

Photo:  Luficer the cat.

We received our first organizational license as an approved “animal shelter” from the State of Iowa on October 5, 1996. This license extended to each foster home. None of our foster homes has ever ”failed“ an inspection. The last item on the evaluation form is where we have our inspectors rate the site based on everything they’ve seen and heard that day:

unacceptable    below minimum standard    at minimum standard    above minimum standard    outstanding

We have a total of 33 scores over the past 10 years:  30 “outstandings” and 3 “above minimum standards.Here’s what the FosterHome Evaluation Form looks like.

The FosterHome Evaluation Form is a PDF file. If you don’t already have Adobe’s Acrobat Reader (the application necessary to read PDF files), you can download it free by clicking the button below:

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Last update:  09/21/16

Contact Us

JCHS      P.O. BOX 2775      IOWA CITY, IA  52244-2775


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