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Thoughts on Fostering

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. Even though we no longer foster animals, we think this information is important to save. After all, our pilot program with the Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship resulted in a provision in the Iowa Administrative Code to legalize in-home foster care of companion animals.

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 did have a need for additional foster homes. Please consider fostering an animal.

Our municipal shelter, the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center, is probably recruiting people right now.

It’s very rewarding work.

And, it saves lives.

Photo: Hunter and Lorenzo the cats snuggle on the bed

The Profile of a Foster Caregiver

Grafix: Be Kind

Value System

Is committed to helping animals as a way of life.

Understands that love is not enough.

Is able to have the animal’s best interests at heart.

Considers animals to be integral parts of families.

 

Treats animals with respect.

Has thought about what “quality of life” entails.

Is willing to work until the task at hand gets done.

Encourages good behavior with praise and attention, and corrects negative behaviors by providing positive alternatives.

Photo: Atticus the cat
Photo: Taj the grey and white kitten talking

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.

Is resourceful and a good problem-solver.

Able to ask for clarification when needed.

Recognizes an emergency when one arises.

Has the ability to prioritize.

Practices good listening.

 

Personality Attributes

Tends to be altruistic, other-centered.

Is independent yet able to play by the rules.

Is intuitive and observant.

Is compassionate.

Is trainable.

Graphic:  It's cold outside. Save a stray!

 

Has a sense of humor.

Is flexible.

Is nonjudgmental.

Is not bound to preconceptions.

Is proactive and demonstrates good common sense.

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.


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?

Photo: Isaac the Persian cat.
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.
Photo: Frito the kitten in his many-tailed b andage after his leg amputation

•  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?

 

Photo: Diamond, Ace, andJack the kittens in their bed

 

The FosterCare Application is a PDF file.
If you don’t already have Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, download it for free.
Graphic: Get Adobe Reader

•  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?

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.


What FosterCare Entails

Legal Aspects

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 Iowa 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.

Photo: Jack the kitten
Photo:  Finnegan the cat.

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.

Grafix: an animated grey cat walking

 

Photo: Mellow the cat

Cases are dealt with individually. 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: Bing the injured kitten
Grafic:  Two kittens.

Preparing Your Household

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.

Photo: cats Odie and bud cuddling on the bed.
Photo: Karma and Canyon the kittens playing with a wand toy

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

Photo: Sam the dog
Graphic:  Cat greeting three puppies.

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 ear mites, 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.

Grafix: a flea and a tick

 

Chemical Flea Treatment for Your Home 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: Amelia the cat curled up in a small basket

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 drinking water, food, necessary medication, (and litter for cats).

Photo: Iowa City Bhouses after the tornado

JCHS Provides the Health Care for Foster Animals

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 at first to prevent bite opportunities 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 ear mites 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.

Grafix: a spanial dog head

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 ear mites 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 Foster Kittens and Puppies

•  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.)

Photo: four kittens on a towel
Grafix: cat mom and two kittens

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

•  check for ear mites 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.


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).

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.

Photo: three kittens playing ith a ring toy
Photo: Ben the cat leaning on Brenda

•  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 can—when they choose to—see 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.

•  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!

Graphic:  Friendly cat leaning against resistant dog.


Maintaining a Clean Household

Grafix: Iowa Code Books

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.

Grafix: a cat in a litter box but afraid to pee
Photo: Tilie the kitten in her kitty haven

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 (see photo at right) 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

Grafix: f kittens at the water bowl
Photo: Anabel the cat posing with her scratching post

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 gas—just 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

Grafix: cat dressed up like a maid

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 for.

It is not to check up on your color scheme, paw through your freezer, or judge how well you’ve been dusting. Think of this as a learning experience rather than a test of your home hygiene abilities.

We conduct mock evaluations with new foster-caregivers-in-training. In addition, the FosterCare Coordinator is present at every inspection/evaluation.

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: Luca the cat in her cube bed
The FosterHome Evaluation is a PDF file.
If you don’t already have Adobe’s Acrobat Reader, download it for free.
Graphic: Get Adobe Reader

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

Over the years we have had all “outstandings” and 3 “above minimum standards.”

Here’s what the FosterHome Evaluation form looks like.


Last update: 04/18/18

 

Contact Us at

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

NOTE that we are a small group of volunteers, most of whom work during the day. We will get back to you as soon as we can.

jchs@johnsoncountyhumane.org

 

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