Many people wonder how we find foster homes for our dogs. We have some folks who have signed up as fosters who have not gotten a dog yet, and maybe this explanation will clarify why you haven’t had a foster yet.
When we get a request to take a dog in, we consider two things first and foremost, one, where the dog is, and two, what issues (if any) does it have. By issues, we mean things that might affect which foster home is appropriate. If we have a dog that is scared of kids, we don’t want to place the dog in a foster home with kids, or if the dog has a medical issue that might require special care, we want to make sure the foster home is able to treat the problem, and possibly has access to medical resources that are appropriate. Dogs that need work on housebreaking really should go to a foster home where someone is home most of the day, because leaving them alone all day isn’t going to make it easy on the dog to get with the program.
So, that said, taking into account any issues, we basically go in concentric rings geographically from the dog’s location. The shorter the distance we have to move the dog the better. As we’ve said before, HRI has limited resources... both people and money. So the shorter the distance we have to move a dog, the better the chances we can find transport help, and when we move a dog by plane, it gets very expensive. As a real life example, it took almost two weeks to get two dogs from Atlanta, GA to the Orlando, FL area because we did not have any folks who could help transport. The dogs finally got to their foster homes in Florida courtesy of another rescue group who set up a transport to move their dogs and they let our guys tag along.
Airline costs vary, but if we have a dog that is small enough to go under the seat, and if the dog is able to tag along with someone who is already taking a flight (so we didn’t have to pay their airfare too), a dog in the cabin is anywhere from $75 to $120. If the dog cannot fit under the seat and needs to be checked, and if someone is flying with the dog, the fees jump to about $150. If we need to ship the dog, which means that we don’t have someone on the plane, the dog becomes a parcel. That means that they literally measure the kennel and weigh it, and then figure in the distance we’re flying the dog, and charge us just like they’re UPS or something. Those fees can easily be around $275 per dog. Now even if money wasn’t an issue, when you’re talking about a dog going in the plane’s hold, we are also hampered by weather because airlines will not ship dogs if the temperature is going to be above 80 or 85 degrees anywhere they are flying. To be clear, HRI will not consider putting a Havanese in the hold of the plane unless we are sure that it would not be detrimental to its health. If we have a dog that is so nervous or shy that we feel it would be traumatized by flying that way, we won’t do it. We’re also not wild about multiple segment flights, because the time on the plane becomes really long, and every time they have to transfer the dog there is a risk it won’t make the next flight. To further complicate things, there are several airlines that won’t allow dogs in the cabin or as baggage. The average cost in 2009 was $617.05 per dog that comes into rescue for the basics, vet visit, updated vaccinations, spay/neuter, teeth cleaning, etc. So if we have to spend another $100 - $300 to move them, you can see that we’ll significantly increase our average cost per dog.
So back to where we started, we look for appropriate foster homes as close to where the dog is being surrendered because that is the most cost effective thing for HRI and also most practical thing to do logistically. If we cannot find a foster home close by, we start moving out (we all have really good maps of the US now!), again considering the dog’s needs and the transport possibilities.
So if you haven’t been contacted about getting a dog, it’s most likely because there hasn’t been a dog in your area or one we could get to you easily (and cheaply!) or that seemed like a good fit based on the dog’s needs. Fear not, eventually there will be dogs everywhere in the US. If anyone has any questions about how we do this, please let us know. For those of you who keep us posted on whether you’re willing and able to take a foster – please keep doing that! We're always looking at which direct flights are available from a dog’s location, so it helps us to know that you’re still out there and willing to take a dog.
For those of you only interested in adoption, all of the factors mentioned above also apply to potential adoptions.