We volunteers are always overjoyed to hear one of BACS’s wards has been rescued, (a joy overshadowed only by an adoption into a forever home, of course!). These rescues are made possible by the nonprofit organizations that work tirelessly to help BACS keep its euthanasia rate as low as possible. But rescue groups are limited in what they can do -- they can only help dogs or cats if they have a place to put them.

This is where you come in.

There is no shortage of rescue groups. Many come regularly to the shelter looking for animals they can take. Sometimes staff members or volunteers reach out to rescues, most urgently when a dog is about to be put down, but also if there is a particular breed that may be of interest to a breed-specific rescue group. But most of these organizations are constrained by the fact that there are so many dogs and a very limited number of foster homes, and they don't have their own holding facilities. And even if they do, if an animal is sick, elderly or kennel stressed it isn't always an option.

A foster home does more than just save a life. As a foster, you can provide the animals with just what they need -- a stable, loving environment. You can provide the basic training that may make the difference in making them adoptable and keeping them from bouncing around shelters forever.

And for some animals, it can be critical. If you're a regular follower of our Facebook page, you've probably seen notices about dogs and cats experiencing kennel stress. This means that life in the shelter has become too stressful and the animal is shutting down. For dogs, this means they stop wanting to go out and will start exhibiting neurotic behaviors, like chewing their feet or licking their kennels. Another shelter is not an option -- they need to be placed in a home.

For volunteers, it's incredibly rewarding -- you are most definitely saving a life, helping the shelter meet our goals, and helping the animals become more adoptable. It can also give you a real taste of dog ownership -- without the life-long commitment. And you can advance some of the handling skills you’ve developed.

Fostering is a big responsibility, though, so you will want to be well prepared before you embark on this new journey. Each rescue group has their own way of doing things and will offer differing levels of support, depending on their resources. Be sure you know what you are getting into. Ask lots of questions until you understand what is expected of you, and what you can expect from the group you are working with. Ask for a contract, read it, and make sure you understand it. And keep in mind that letting go won’t be easy.

If you are interested in fostering, there are a number of rescue groups that you can work with. Below is a list of rescue groups that have worked with BACS in the past or have expressed interest in working with us, along with some shared experiences from their current fosters. If you’re ready to learn more, please contact one of the Bay Area organizations listed below.

The Rescue Groups

Who are they? BAD RAP (Bay Area Dog Lovers Responsible About Pit Bulls) is a small, busy non-profit organization of pit bull owners, trainers, advocates, educators, rescuers, and supporters. They evolved out of a desire to respond to the difficult issues facing this misunderstood breed.

BAD RAP has also put together a primer for potential fosters detailing the kinds of questions you'll want to ask. Check it out. Fostering. First the Basics.

Who are they? Muttville is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of senior dogs. On a local level, they rescue senior dogs and find them new homes or provide hospice for them. On a global level, Muttville provides information about caring for older dogs and support for people who do.

Home At Last (HAL)
Who are they? Over the past several years, significant strides have been made in reducing the rate of dog and cat euthanasia all across the nation. HAL plays an active role in this "no-kill" movement by rescuing animals from city shelters, providing temporary foster care, and bringing these animals to the public for placement in high-quality, loving homes. Historically, HAL has operated primarily in the Berkeley area.

Hopalong & Second Chance Animal Rescue
Who are they? Hopalong & Second Chance Animal Rescue is a non-profit organization whose mission is to eliminate the euthanasia of adoptable animals throughout Northern California. Since their founding in 1993, they have collectively saved over 18,000 animals, placing them in loving, permanent homes. They also provide spay/neuter services, animal advocacy and humane education in schools and in after school programs, and community outreach on the benefits of spay/neutering and the critical need for animal adoption.

Berkeley East Bay Humane Society (BEBHS)
Who are they? The Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to placing homeless animals with committed caretakers; to developing healthy relationships between pets and people through education, training and counseling; and to promoting the humane treatment of all animals.

Foster Talk

Nancy (BAD RAP)
My fiancee and I have been fostering for about a year and are currently fostering our second dog for BAD RAP. We started fostering because we saw it as a way to have another dog while also helping out local dogs in need. We realized that we could adopt one dog and help one dog - or - we can foster and help many dogs find their forever homes.

Our first foster dog, Camellia, came to us as a 10 week old puppy. We had her for six wonderful months, watching her grow up into a happy, well adjusted adolescent dog. Our current foster dog, Atomic Betty, came out of a local shelter, having landed there after having had a litter of puppies and looking a little worse for wear.

Camellia Shares Her Space
Fostering has truly been a rewarding experience for us and we feel that everyone benefits from this work. Personally, I have become a better parent to my own animals for having these different personalities in the house. You get into a routine with your own personal animals, and having a foster gently forces you to become a better trainer, companion, and caretaker.

The animal benefits by getting out of the shelter environment and being given the time and opportunity to find the best forever home out there. They get the chance to develop their true personalities and get their halos polished up by having a responsible and loving caretaker. The eventual forever homes benefit by adopting an animal that is a "known quantity" and who has a team of people ensuring that there is a good match between the animal and the home. The shelter benefits by reducing the number of animals housed in the shelter. Are there challenges? Yes. Did Camellia pee in the house and chew up my slippers? Yes. Did she greet every day with unbridled joy and a crazy wiggly butt that made up for it all? Yes. The benefits far outweigh the difficulties.

Atomic Betty Hitches a Ride
BAD RAP worked with us to make sure the foster dog we took in would fit into our household, and has been a great support and resource throughout. As we got nearer to the time that Camellia was going to go to her new home I was afraid it would be too hard. And it was hard. But her new family clearly loves her as much as I do and it is okay. Atomic Betty has been with us for three months now and is getting ready to transition to her forever home. I will miss her - but now I know I can do this and Atomic Betty has shown me that I will love my next foster dog as much as I love her. I am excited for her and her new life - and I am excited to find out who my next foster dog will be.

Katie (BAD RAP)
Fostering dogs is the most fulfilling experience I have have ever had. Every time you foster an animal, that is one less animal that has to die in the shelter system. To make an impact in an animals life is priceless. And, when they find their forever homes, and you get to see them connect with their new people, the reward is greater than anything you could ever buy in a store or win in a contest. To know that you were the reason that they made it out alive, is reason enough to put up with all the reasons why its also difficult to foster. Convincing spouses and housemates of your desire to foster can be tricky! Introducing foster dogs to resident dogs must be done slowly and carefully. It can be a lot of work, but the reward is far greater than the challenge. I am hooked!

Foster - Frisbee - Fun
Fostering dogs makes your heart whole, especially pit bulls.

Get In Line Kids, We're Getting Treats!

Ellen (Muttville)
The first time I saw her, I knew she would steal my heart. Those big brown eyes staring up at me, filled with confusion and sorrow. An 11-year-old Papillion mix, she was found wandering the streets of Fremont, CA. She was a wee little thing, weighing no more than 10 pounds, black and white, with wisps of soft hair hanging from her larger-than-life ears. She must have been someone’s dog, as she had impeccable house manners and was fully house trained. I wish she could tell me how she ended up lost and alone on the street. 

I took her home and she settled in right away, claiming me as her own. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in my lap and watch television with me. Then the day came when an application came in. It was with dread and excitement that I called the potential new parent. We drove out to an affluent neighborhood in Marin, and as I pulled up to the enormous two story house, I knew my little friend would be living in luxury. As soon as we walked in the door, she jumped on the sofa as if she knew she was home. Fate brought this little girl to her new home; as the new mom’s late husband was born in Fremont, the connection was instant. As I walked out the door, leaving my foster behind, I breathed a heavy sigh. I would miss her, but I knew she was going to a better life than even I could have provided. I played a part in saving her, and now she would live happily ever after.

Fran (Muttville)
Ever since I can remember, I have loved animals of all types and descriptions. My parents, however, really didn’t care to have any furry family members, especially not the horse I begged for for years. So finally, when I got out on my own, I began to get animals – first a Siamese cat who was locked in a room for several years without any companionship, then a dog, then….

Finally when I was in my early 40’s I lived on a 37-acre farm in Ohio and was really able to indulge my fantasies about being surrounded by all kinds of animals – I ended up with 31! Most of them were rescues – 2 aged ponies whose owners didn’t think they were useful any more, a horse rescued by the SPCA with scarred legs from standing in her own filth, a pot-bellied pig that grew bigger than her owners expected and was relegated to living in a garage on a cold cement floor. And then there were the 11 dogs – 2 elderly dogs adopted from the dogcatcher at our former home in Massachusetts, one of which ended up being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, and the 4 dogs we adopted in one day from the shelter in Ohio because they were due to be euthanized the next.

As I got a little older (and perhaps wiser) I realized that I could save far more dogs by fostering them and finding them homes than I could by adopting them. Instead of having 1 dog for 10 years, I could foster dogs one at a time and save 60 or so if each one lived with me for 2 months over those same 10 years! And I could get to know 60 wonderful animals. So, now I have 4 dogs and 2 cats of my own and I am working on saving those 60 dogs – so far I’m up to about 25.

Fostering Provides Comforts a Shelter Can't
When I moved to California 4 years ago, I tried volunteering and/or fostering with several different groups, but I have ended up with Muttville. I currently have my 12th foster with them – another wonderful senior dog who ended up in a high-kill shelter after his owner died. It is senior dogs that have the hardest time getting adopted and most often are euthanized, but they can all find homes if they just have a little longer to be matched with the right people. Sometimes their owners have died, sometimes they have lost their homes due to foreclosure or divorce, and sometimes they’ve just been left at the night drop at the pound because their owner just didn’t want to bother with them anymore.

You Can Change a Dog's Outlook on Life
When I pick up a new foster dog, they usually have a defeated look in their eyes – they’re trying not to be hopeful anymore, and they’ve been traumatized by being in the shelter. But once they are cleaned up, their medical needs have been taken care of, and they’ve been back in a home environment, I can watch the sparkle come back into those same eyes and see the tailwags begin. Where else can I literally save a life and see joy rekindled.

With Age Comes Glory and Wisdom
People often ask me how I can bear to give them up. Actually, I get joy by finding them a new family, seeing them in their new environment and knowing that I can now make room in my home to save another life.

When You Foster, You Can Fill a Hole in a Lonely Dog's Life

Yet More Foster Kittens (BEBHS)
For a look into the life of a devoted kitten foster volunteer with Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, visit the Yet More Foster Kittens blog.

Jane (BEBHS)
I started fostering teenage and adult cats for BEBHS after the fire in 2010. I'm lucky to have a finished basement that has become the foster apartment filled with toys and lots of natural light. I've had each foster for a month or more so have really gotten to know them in a relaxed and comfortable setting. To me, the most valuable part of the foster program is spending time with the cats in a home environment so I'm able to share my experiences with potential adopters. I think being able to really match a cat with an adopter results in a lifelong home. Of course I miss them when they go, but I love being part of getting them ready to start a new life.