Changing lives one pet at a time: The power of Foster a Pet Program

When Sticky, a 6-week-old kitten, came to Miami Dade Animal Services in June 2022, he was a mess. 

Sticky had scabies, an upper respiratory infection (URI) that caused him to lose his vision, and on top of that, a broken arm that was later amputated. Then he met Abigail Batic, an intern in the foster program at Miami Dade Animal Services. She knew she had to foster him, but she did not know that he was going to steal her heart.

“He just ended up clicking with me and my family,” Batic said. 

Now, Sticky is a happy three-legged blind cat who found his forever home after a foster failure.

Becoming a pet foster parent is about offering a temporary home to homeless animals that need to live in a home environment before adoption, either because they are too young to be placed in a shelter, they are recovering from an injury or illness, or they need a break from the shelter environment. 

The foster program also helps free up shelter space for other needy animals.

When the program began, the idea was to expand the ability to care for the pets, increase resources, and give the best care possible, said Flora Beal, public affairs administrator at Miami-Dade Animal Services.

“It’s part of a life-saving mission,” Beal says. “ Foster parents have the opportunity to train and socialize with the pet so we can get information and make the best match.” 

The shelter has a list of requirements for becoming a pet foster parent. Candidates must be Florida residents and fill out an online foster family application; if the application is approved, the Animal Services’ Foster Coordinator will notify the applicants and schedule an orientation.

During the orientation and training process, the foster coordinator provides a PowerPoint presentation outlining the dos and don’ts of fostering. For instance, Beal said, one forbidden action is taking the foster pet to a dog park because their behavior cannot be predicted.

Also, they provide education for the best care, tips to promote them on social media, and what kind of information the shelter needs to make the best match. After orientation, the foster parents can choose their pet, or the shelter provides a list of pets that need to be out of the shelter environment through email. Moreover, the shelter sets a date and time for the pick up of the pet and gives the foster parents instructions, food, and supplies.  

Other requirements for a foster parent are the ability to transport the pet to adoption when required, an agreement to bring the pet to the shelter every two weeks for vaccines, boosters, and deworming if necessary, and be able to return the pet to the shelter for out-of-state adoption. Moreover, if the foster parent owns pets at their home, those pets must be current in vaccines and over 1 year old.

Batic, who started in the program in 2020, has fostered more than 200 animals and worked with multiple organizations in addition to Miami-Dade Animal Services. She currently works with The Milk Drunk Foundation, which specializes in neonate baby animals. 

Her current foster pet is a two-week-old Corgi born with a cleft palate defect, which does not allow him to feed from his mom. Batic states that fostering is a rewarding experience.

“Watching them grow and flourish and become these beautiful dogs and cats ready for adoption,” she said. “It makes me very proud of my great little animals.” 

The foster-a-pet program has helped the shelter create more spaces for incoming pets, Beal said, but they still need more foster parents. 

“Foster parenting is for people who have an extra space in their house and their heart,” says Beal. “You can take one pet at a time, and you will be helping two.”
For more information about how to foster a pet, contact Miami Dade Animal Services’ Foster a Pet Program.

Amelia Orjuela Da Silva is a senior majoring in digital journalism with a minor in social media and E-marketing analytics. After graduation, she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment field as a writer/reporter to shine a light on stories that need to be discovered.