That’s where people like Peggy Rew and Alex Craigie come in. They’re two local animal lovers who give of their time and personal space to help the Nevada Humane Society (NHS) and Northern Nevada SPCA raise homeless animals when staffs and shelters are stretched thin.
“At first it was more just because I really wanted a kitten, I just wanted to play with kittens and it was a good excuse,” said Alex, a junior at Reno High School, about her reasons for volunteering to work with local homeless animals. “As I got older it was seeing people’s looks on their faces when they found the perfect pet, the little kids saying, ‘Oh I want this one’ and their parents saying no and the kids finally breaking them down.”
Alex convinced her own mother, Pam, to volunteer their home to foster homeless kittens. The Craigies and Rews are very important the NHS and SPCA, which make use of such volunteers primarily to raise kittens and puppies from birth until they are large enough to be spayed or neutered and then made available for adoption. With the extra care and attention that newborn animals need, it would be difficult or impossible for rescue organizations’ staffs to tend to both the young animals and ever-increasing number of adult animals without homes.
Rew, a Sparks resident who has been fostering animals through the county and NHS for the past three years, said she enjoys giving the animals a safe, nurturing environment in which to spend their few few months of life. She said she and her husband, Dale, work to socialize the litters of kittens they foster so they’re more ready for adoption, which she said usually takes them around five or seven weeks.
“It’s kind of like taking the place of their mother,” said Rew, who is certified in animal CPR. “The mother cat usuually takes care of everything but if the kittens are turned in without a mother they’ve got nothing.”
NHS executive director Bonney Brown said puppies and kittens are kept in foster care until they weigh about two pounds. Foster care also is sometimes used for older animals that have been sick or just undergone surgery, she said, as a way for them to rehabilitate in a more hospitable environment.
“The home environment definitely is less stressful for an animal than an animal shelter,” she said. “No matter how nice a shelter is, it is more like an institutional environment for people.”
Particularly for the younger animals, socialization with people and other animals is a great benefit of being in a foster home. Playing with people and other pets will help foster animals become friendlier in their influential first months of life, Brown said.
“Being in a great foster home gives them a step up in life and prepares them for pet adoption,” Brown said. “Animals that are friendly and outgoing get adopted more quickly.”
The greatest need for NHS right now is for foster homes for kittens, Brown said. At present, the society’s shelter on Longley Lane is full when it comes to cats, she said, and for dogs there isn’t much room left. Both the NHS and SPCA have lists of volunteers willing to foster, but Brown said more are needed as many fosters need a break and the shelter gets more full. Rew said she has had 46 kittens over the past year, usually about 10 at a time.
NHS director Brown and local SPCA director Tom Jacobs both said the process to become a pet foster home is simple: a short application and some interviewing to ensure the home and availability are appropriate for the types of animals to be placed there. Both also provide training and health services for foster pets placed in people’s homes, and the organizations will also provide food as needed. There is no home inspection for potential fosters, and Jacobs said even apartment residents can foster as long as the landlord approves it.
From talking to pet foster parents, it is difficult to tell who benefits from it more: the humans or the animals.
“It’s truly a wonderful experience,” Pam Craigie said. “I once said to my husband, ‘These babies are so lucky to have us,’ and he said, ‘No we’re the lucky ones.’ They’re like little kids when you come in the room they run up to you purring and are so excited to see you.
“It brightens your day, just makes you feel good,” she added.
For information about fostering with the SPCA of Northern Nevada, call 324-7773 and ask for Holly. For information about fostering with NHS, call Nikole Nichols at 856-2000 ext. 321.