Whether it’s a cold or other illness, we all find comfort in going home to recover. But what if you couldn’t go home? For many shelter pets, being sick and unable to go home is a heartbreaking scenario they might face while waiting to be adopted.
That’s why BARC, the city’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Facility, launched its Sniffles and Sneezes program this past October. The program aims to help sick shelter pets recover at a foster’s home, so they can get adopted out and find their forever homes.
“Once a kiddo has been diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, they go to the treatment ward and get enrolled in the sniffles and sneezes program,” said Sophia Proler, a foster and volunteer coordinator for BARC.
“They might have a minor cold, or a skin condition that is contagious, so they need to recover better at home,” Proler said of the pets who get fostered out through the Sniffles and Sneezes program. “Pets recover faster at home. Its less stressful.”
BARC fosters can care for sick pets up to 14 days, with BARC providing all medical care, medications, a crate, leash and food.
“Once they are feeling better, they can come back to be adopted,” Proler said. “If the foster falls in love during those 7 to 14 days, then they can adopt for only $5.”
“We’ve definitely seen an increase in pet gets adopted and fostered out,” Proler said of the response they’ve had to the program.
Saving lives, one foster at a time
“The majority of the time, the dogs and cats that come in, their immune system gets depressed when they get here because of stress,” said Joshlyn Peters, a veterinary technician supervisor for BARC.
“They are in an environment that are not used to, they are around other animals. It really takes a toll on them,” said Peters, who may treat up to 120 animals on any given day.
“If they’re taken out of that environment, it gives them a little bit more attention at home than the shelter,” Peters said. “It helps them have more of an immunity, be happy, less stressed.”
Along with the Sniffles and Sneezes program, BARC fosters out other eligible shelter pets year-round, with anywhere from 200 to 300 animals currently in foster care.
Becky Best, a BARC volunteer and foster, became a foster after seeing a picture of five puppies in need of a foster home.
“They were underage puppies and small,” Best said. “I didn’t want to split them up, so I took all five.”
Best cared for the puppies over the next three weeks, feeding them and bringing them to medical appointments at BARC. When they were ready, Best returned the pups to be adopted out. The experience left Best wanting to do more.
“I came to foster some puppies and ended up starting to volunteer,” she said.
At least one day a week, Best volunteers her time at BARC. From bottle feeding kittens to walking dogs, Best finds there’s no shortage of things to do.
“I know that I’m making a difference in the trenches where it matters most,” said Best of the time she spends volunteering at BARC.
And Proler agrees.
“With the foster program in general, whether it’s the Sniffles and Sneezes program, or just fostering an animal that’s been here more than 20 days, you’re saving two lives by taking a pet home with you,” she said. “Because then another needy pet has that kennel.”
Proler encourages people who want to foster to contact BARC.
“They can email or call BARC,” she said. “Let us know they are interested in fostering.”
“We are increasing our life saving capabilities so much with a foster,” Proler said. “They save lives.”
To learn more about becoming a BARC foster, log on to https://www.houstontx.gov/barc/foster_a_pet.html.