Fostering New Beginnings
06:27 PM, Monday, May 14
Short-Term Stays with Foster Parents Make a Long-Term Difference for Animals

It’s 3 a.m. and a sleepy mom wakes and goes to the kitchen to warm some bottles. Karen Kelley is no ordinary mom — she’s a San Diego Humane Society “foster mom” to four tiny puppies, who were found in a parking lot at just 8-days-old.

Sick and weak, this litter of puppies was covered in dirt and their feet, tummies, and noses had sores and ulcers. When they arrived to the San Diego Humane Society, the pups were immediately bathed, fed, examined by a veterinarian and were provided overnight care while awaiting an open foster home the next day.

Kelley began fostering Jeff, Nick, Drew and Justin when they were 9-days-old. By 3-weeks-old, almost all of their sores had healed, and they were steadily gaining weight. As a result of around-the-clock care from the SDHS Foster Program, Jeff, Drew, Nick and Justin developed into healthy pups with loving personalities, and it wasn’t long before they all found new homes.

SDHS’s Foster Care Program is a nurturing, rehabilitating and often life-saving service for baby animals, mothers with litters, animals with minor medical needs or, those animals in need of extra-special time and attention.

“The babies definitely take a lot of work,” says Kelley. “But it is all-the-more rewarding when you care for an animal from its very first days and get to watch them grow up.”

The Foster Care Program relies on volunteers like Kelley to give special animals the special care they need. As “kitten season” draws near, even more foster care volunteers are needed. “Many people assume they wouldn’t qualify to be a foster volunteer, and are surprised when they hear that we provide all necessary training and supplies,” said Kelley. “Anyone that has the time and a lot of love can be a foster volunteer.”

Individuals in the foster program go through an orientation as well as training classes on the animals they will be fostering. The San Diego Humane Society provides foster volunteers with the necessary training, supplies and support needed to care for their foster animals, including food, bowls, bedding, toys, litter, medication and any veterinary services. Being a foster volunteer is a rewarding and fulfilling task, requiring time, education and commitment.

Karen said, “It’s such a joy to witness their growth and see their different personalities emerge. My family loves being a part of this –we all do.”

Benefits of Foster Care

Certain animals may have difficulty adapting to life in a shelter and can greatly benefit from spending time in a home.

The foster experience is rewarding for both the animal and the volunteer.

Animals benefit from the comfort of a home environment, plus they receive much-needed socialization with both people and other pets.

Foster volunteers find the experience very fulfilling and take great joy in watching a young animal grow up or helping to nurse a sick animal back to health.

While San Diego Humane Society Foster Volunteers contribute thousands of hours of service per month, there is always more that needs to be done. To discover the amazing reward of witnessing the “thank you” in the eyes of countless baby and recovering animals first-hand, please visit or email

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