Fostering Shelter Pets Is Rewarding and Saves Lives

Our family welcomed a temporary house guest over the Christmas holidays. We were joined by Tillie, a six-month-old, partial Mini-Pinscher puppy that we “fostered” on behalf of the Aiken County Animal Shelter.

The Bunker children enjoyed their time with Shelter pup Tillie.

Tillie was scheduled to join her new “forever” family in Rhode Island after the New Year, but in the meantime the little stray was scared and miserable in the shelter. For such a tiny puppy, the loud barking, big dogs and strange surroundings were intimidating. She needed time to socialize. FOTAS (Friends of the Animal Shelter) and the animal shelter staff saw that a foster family would help her.

Tillie was nervous when she came home with us. On the first day, her skinny frame trembled. She cowered under the dining room table, her tail between her legs and her appetite low. Tillie wasn’t too sure about her new surroundings.

We were pleasantly surprised as we watched her socialize over the next two weeks. With warmth and attention, she ate, frolicked with our other dogs, and learned how to be a puppy. Before long she was rolling around with the other dogs and chasing, and being chased by, them. Charging up and down the stairs, and running around the back yard, her energy and confidence returned.

Aiken County and FOTAS established the foster care program for adoptable dogs and cats outside of the shelter. This program ensures that they experience a healthy environment, and it frees up limited shelter space for other adoptable animals.

County Council Chairman Gary Bunker holds foster puppy Tillie, who has since been adopted to her forever home.

Fostering saves lives. It’s simple as that. When a volunteer fosters a shelter dog, it prepares the dog for his new home. It also opens a kennel on the adoption floor, giving another dog a chance to be seen by a prospective adopter. This in turn frees up space in intake, allowing the shelter to accept another stray or surrendered pet.

Short-term fosters for five to ten days typically involve animals scheduled to be transferred to no-kill shelters in other parts of the country or for whom an adoption is pending. Foster families caring for moms with puppies (or kittens) usually do so until they’re weaned, roughly 12 weeks from the date of birth.

In too many instances, animals come in with injuries from abuse or negligence that require medical treatment, followed by fostering in a home to recover. The shelter is currently in urgent need of “medical” fosters.

Would you like to foster a dog or cat? Contact FOTAS at (803) 514-4313. Or fill out a form at and fax to FOTAS at (803) 643-4006. FOTAS will select the animals available for foster based on need, temperament, and the resources and environment of the foster home. FOTAS provides food and medical care for the foster dogs, if necessary.

For us, our fostering of Tillie was over all too quickly. After the holidays, she returned to the animal shelter just in time for her journey to her new adoptive home. We’ll miss her, but we’re sure she will make one special family happy for a long time to come. And thanks to the foster program, we were able to positively impact her life.

Their lives are in our hands.

— By Gary Bunker, Aiken County Council Chairman

By the Numbers
From January 1 to 15, the County Animal Shelter took in 210 strays and surrendered pets.

Pets of the Week

Mixed breed, male, 1 year old, 43 pounds – $35

Domestic Shorthair Calico kitten, female, 3 months old, 3 pounds – $10