There are so many animals in rescues all over Ireland that need to be rehomed. One of the ways that the KWWSPCA ensure that they can take in as many animals as possible into their rescue centre is to encourage people to foster animals until they can be rehomed.
We talked to Shauna Byrne, Volunteer Animal welfare officer and Fosterer from the KWWSPCA, to find out more about the work they do, what being a foster involves and how you can volunteer to become one.
About the KWWSPCA
The Kildare and west Wicklow society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (KWWSPCA) was founded in 1940. It is run entirely by volunteers.
What type of animals do you rescue?
We mainly rescue dogs but we also respond to all calls about all animals in need in the Kildare and West Wicklow area and take in any animals we need to while working alongside other rescues to help cats, wildlife, horses, livestock etc. We also work closely with Kildare dog pound to help rehome stray dogs once they have done their required 5 days.
Who cares for the animals on a daily basis?
Our volunteers care for the animals by providing them with walks, training, socialising, medicating them and transporting them for veterinary attention (where necessary) along with providing them with a proper diet.
Where does your funding come from?
We receive an annual grant from the department of agriculture, but the majority of our funds come from public donations. We also have a shop that raises funds for the rescue.
Currently how many animals are in your care?
We currently have over 30 dogs in our care but I personally have 8 I am fostering. One is Mammy a Bernese mountain dog. Mammy was rescued from a puppy farm and suffers badly with PTSD so she is unable to be rehomed and is a permanent foster. I also have 7 puppies that were abandoned in a field in a box along with their mother and a sibling who sadly died. The mother and pups were in a horrific state and emaciated. The pups also had a very heavy work burden but they are on the mend thanks to a proper diet and worm dose.
What are the biggest issues you face as a rescue?
Mainly the volume of animals coming in and the lack of space. We are only able to hold a certain number of animals at our shelter so we are always appealing for foster homes. Another issue is finding homes for certain dogs such as lurchers and staffies (which make the most fabulous pets) and older dogs.
Tell us about your foster process.
One of the main reasons we need foster homes is space. The more foster homes we have, the more dogs we can take in. Some dogs don’t do as well in a shelter environment as others so a foster home is much better for them. Being in a foster home helps us gauge what home would be best suited for them, would they be suited for a home with children or not for example. We also would need foster homes for the large volume of kittens we are called about in the spring and summer months.
Being a foster involves treating a foster dog just like your own. Sometimes they require some socialisation with people or other dogs, some need training on the lead or just some basic commands, some need house training and in some cases, they need to learn to trust or need help to overcome fear.
What qualities does a great foster have?
A great foster is someone who is patient and someone with empathy. You don’t have to have experience with dogs, we can give you all the tips and advice you need. You can have children, just be sure to let us know so we can place a dog we are certain is child-friendly.
Always remember children and dogs should never be left alone together. It’s also important to ensure your children know proper manners when dealing with dogs such as not disturbing them when eating and sleeping.
You can have your own pets but your dogs should be dog-friendly and your cat may not be overly happy when a dog first arrives, though they generally get over it very quickly.
For fostering puppies, someone who is home a lot of the day is preferred and all foster homes need to have a secure enclosed garden or area.
What challenges does a foster face?
The main challenges are time requirements, patience and getting too attached to the dogs.
Taking in an adult dog won’t take up much more time than you give your own dog, but to someone who is new to dogs then you need to be able to give them a decent walk and take the time to settle them into your home.
Patience is most definitely a virtue when fostering as some dogs and most pups need to learn how to behave in a home environment.
Getting too attached is a huge risk and one that many first-time fosters find themselves in. If you foster a dog/cat and fall so in love you can’t bear to part with it and would like to make it a permanent member of the family then that is wonderful, at the end of the day what we want for our dogs is a happy home where they are loved. People often say they couldn’t foster because they couldn’t say goodbye to them but generally once they go you’ll be able to take another animal in need.
Over 12 years I’ve fostered about 500 dogs and cats and there have been a few I can think of who I absolutely ADORED. One, in particular, was trilby a little lab x pup that came to me at 5 weeks old after being abandoned. He was stunning and so intelligent and affectionate. I had him about 7 weeks and I did not want to post him up for rehoming, but he was the quintessential family pet and he needed a home with children.
Sadly, if I had kept him a foster space would have been gone for another dog in need. I couldn’t bring myself to deny him the home he deserved, which he got a lot faster than I liked, nor take away a foster space.
Hand rear kittens and pups are also particularly difficult for me to say goodbye to as I do get incredibly attached as they are literally my babies!
What can a foster expect?
Generally, you can expect to have your foster dog a minimum of 2 weeks. Most dogs over the age of six months are neutered as soon as they come into our care and have stitches for 10 days. They are also fully vaccinated (as are pups) before being rehomed, and the vaccination course takes 2 weeks to complete. Some dogs take longer to rehome than others and other dogs require a lot longer to overcome behavioural and health issues.
The most common behavioural issues we would see would be food and dog aggression. All fosters will have complete support with dogs like this, from training advice to removing the dog to moving the dog if they cannot cope
What support would a foster get from the KWWSPCA?
All food, bedding, and veterinary care are 100% covered. Plus, you get support with any questions or concerns you have.
How does someone apply to be a foster with you?
You can apply to foster by emailing us at [email protected] or messaging the kwwspca page on Facebook. We will ask you a series of questions to ensure that you can foster and to match the right dogs with you to the best of our abilities.