Happy Adopt a Shelter Dog Month! Most animal rescue and welfare organizations – both foster-based and not – are celebrating shelter dogs all October long in an effort to raise awareness about the fact that nearly 4 million dogs are awaiting their second chances in shelters each year.

Over the course of Ruff Start’s existence, we’ve been privileged to be a partner of shelter-based organizations like Animal Humane Society, St. Paul Animal Control, Minneapolis Animal Care & Control, and more. Our partnership is relatively simple: when an animal in their care is showing signs that it may do best in a home environment, Ruff Start (and other foster-based organizations) is contacted in hopes of a transfer. When an available foster is found, the animal is transferred to the rescue, and it enters its foster care program.

This type of partnership provides an opportunity for animals that would otherwise not have a chance to blossom to grow comfortable in their own time, in a healing environment. It works exceptionally well for animals that experience stress as a result of prolonged kenneling, social isolation, and/or increased reactivity to the hustle and bustle found in a fast-paced shelter environment. Many times, if these animals were not given a chance to open up in a home environment, they would continue to regress until they were deemed unadoptable and would subsequently be euthanized at no real fault of the shelter in question.

However, not all animals that come to us from shelters are severely shut down. Ruff Start also saves the lives of many animals that are perfectly adoptable through the shelter system but are in need of medical rehabilitation before adoption. Animals that are at-risk of euthanasia due to spatial constraints in shelters also make their way into our foster homes. Additionally, Ruff Start takes in animals surrendered by their owners who can no longer provide them adequate care due to lifestyle changes, medical need, financial restraint, and more.

For many families, shelters and humane societies provide the best possible environment for adoption. Their open-door policies, immediate turnaround time, and the ability to meet multiple animals at one time equals the ultimate recipe for love at first sight. These places conduct many successful adoptions each year and further the future of animal welfare just by existing and placing so many animals in need. I appreciate their existence greatly! However…

When I created Ruff Start, I knew from the start I wanted it to be foster-based. To me, there were so many positives and possibilities surrounding the model of relying on the love and care of families that were willing to temporarily house animals in need. Many who adopt from foster-based rescues agree; it’s part of why, by the end of September 2020, we were able to save the lives of over 2,500 animals this year alone. So what are those benefits, you may ask?

First off, when you adopt an animal from a foster-based rescue, you’re actually saving two lives. The first is the animal you adopt, of course; you’re their hero! The second is the next animal that your pet’s foster family brings into their care. This continuous cycle opens up a kennel space at a local shelter, meaning more lives can be saved.

Second, many adoptive families feel they need a more complete history of the pet they bring into their homes. When households are looking to add their perfect pet, they usually have a lot of questions about their personality, traits, and ideal home environment. Does Fred get along with young kids? Is Mona potty-trained? Can Trudy be left alone uncrated for an entire workday?

Many times, shelter pets don’t have a known history, and there’s no real way to test them outside the parameters of the shelter setting. Many humane societies and animal controls will do something called “temperament testing,” where the new animal is introduced to other animals in an attempt to understand their individual reactivity levels. This testing is helpful for placing the animal in an appropriate home, as many potential adopters have other animals already. However, this testing does not extend very much further than being introduced to one or two other animals in an already stressful environment and does not always accurately assess how an animal will feel when in an adoptive home due to the constantly changing factors that are present in a shelter.

The beauty of adopting an animal from a foster-based rescue is that it has a family and is living in a home environment already, so these traits are more easily known. Of course, all animals go through a transition period when being shuffled around, and may regress when in a new environment. But much of the guesswork is taken out of the equation by a family who has already gotten to know the dog or cat in question and has exposed them to these factors that may be deal-breakers for potential adopters.

So, this October, I encourage you to celebrate shelter dogs (and cats!) by adopting from a foster-based rescue. There’s never been a better time to adopt!

On average, Ruff Start saves eight animals per day. Your new best friend is waiting!