FOTAS: Transfer program and foster families save lives

27 May 2015

FOTAS: Transfer program and foster families save lives

By Joanna Dunn Samson, FOTAS Vice President.

It’s not even Memorial Day yet, and the intake wing of the Aiken County Animal Shelter is inundated with abnormally high numbers of owner surrenders, puppies, kittens and strays usually reserved for the summer months. Intake during April and May has been at record highs, far exceeding the number of animals leaving the shelter for forever homes. The shelter is forced to double or triple up animals in the kennels in the intake wing until space is available on the adoption floor. It is an agonizing state of affairs.

When this happens, FOTAS and shelter staff increase their efforts to network the animals on the adoption floor the longest (among other things) by organizing transfers to our no-kill sister agencies in other parts of the country. The transfer program has grown to include 20 partner rescue agencies over the past five years.

“It’s hard work,” says Jennifer. “The partner tells us how much space they have available, and we send them photographs and information about the dogs on the adoption floor, particularly the dogs that have been in the shelter the longest and need to be moved on. We don’t need to transfer out the small, cute dogs- they find homes quickly – we really advocate on behalf of the dogs that are hardest to place.”

In addition to the hard to place dogs, the transfer partners also take healthy, weaned puppies – a godsend during this time of year when the shelter is packed with them.   Says Miller, “Mutt puppies are hard to find and in great demand, particularly in the north, because everyone spays and neuters their animals.”

The FOTAS and County-approved foster homes are instrumental in the success of the transfer program. Once FOTAS and the transfer partner have negotiated which animals to send, FOTAS volunteers and county staff move the approved dogs to foster homes quickly, allowing the dogs a little transition time in a home before they are shipped out.

“Plus,” says Caroline Simonson, a FOTAS Director and volunteer, “moving the dogs quickly to foster frees up space on the adoption floor, allowing staff to release dogs from intake, which is so important when intake is so crowded.”

The need for foster families has never been greater. A potential foster fills out an application and demonstrates to the County that they have a safe, healthy place to care for the dogs. FOTAS is willing to pay for food and vet services to reduce the cost of fostering if necessary.

“You get to save two lives for every foster you take in,” says Toni Urben, a FOTAS foster, “ the dog you foster and the dog that takes its place on the adoption floor. My husband Gary and I love doing it.”

And so will you. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll share with you some of the experiences of our fosters so you can see for yourself how satisfying and how necessary the job is.

We are desperate for more foster families, so if you’ve ever thought about fostering, now is the time. Please call the FOTAS Hotline at 803-514-4313, or email us at

Their lives are in our hands.