Foster Guide

Please read this entire document so you can be a successful foster caregiver. Please also familiarize yourself with our adoption forms, contracts and other documents.


Be sure to complete and return the Foster Agreement form.


Q. What am I required to do as a foster caregiver?
A. Treat the animal as if they are your own. Provide food, shelter, exercise and love. House- breaking and teaching some basic commands will make your foster more adoptable. Cat fosters will need to provide and clean the litter box, and have a scratching post available. Please try to get your foster to adoption fairs twice a month. Also, try to publicize your foster to good prospects, such as placing a notice on your office bulletin board.


Q. Can you give me an ID tag and collars/leash for the foster?
A. Yes. If you foster a dog, it will be outfitted with a collar and harness/martingale and an ID tag. Always use a harness to walk/transport your dog so the dog can’t slip out of a collar and run off. A dog can easily slip out of a flat collar – the flat collar is for holding the ID tag. If you are fostering a cat, you will need to provide a cat carrier to transport your foster cat or kitten. If you don’t have one, or need another size, PAW carriers are available on loan.


Q. What should I ask when I pick up a new foster animal?
A. Ask about the animal’s breed, age, temperament, behavior and background. Also ask what medical work needs to be done and when, such as spay and neuter (which for dogs must be done before adoption unless medical conditions prevail).


Q. How do I introduce my foster to my household?
A. Before bringing a new foster animal home, arrange to have someone help you introduce your own animal(s) to the newcomer outside on neutral territory. If you bring home a foster cat, put that cat in a separate room for 10 days (the incubation period for upper-respiratory infection) before attempting introductions. If you bring home a foster dog, you need to pay attention to how you introduce a new dog to your other household members, but how you do it varies depending on the dog. Let them go at a pace they feel comfortable with and don’t try to rush anyone.


Q. How do I feed my own and foster animals?
A. It’s wise to separate them to avoid a fight between resident and visiting pets over food.


Q. Where should I put my foster when I leave the house?

A. You can confine your foster dog in a crate or baby-gate in a safe room. Confining a dog in a bathroom risks injury and damage. Often, the group can lend you a crate. Encourage applicants to get a crate before bringing a dog home. It is often best to let your foster cat have his or her own room, rather than to upset your household or the foster cat. Cats don’t need a lot of room as long as they get plenty of tender loving care.


Q. What about medical expenses?
A. PAW pays for basic shots, and spays/neuters animals age 3 months and over. PAW supplies monthly heartworm preventative for fosters – pick up once a month at a show. The same goes for flea control during flea season. PAW covers medical expenses for certain routine medical procedures and conditions, but please discuss with a PAW medical coordinator before scheduling a vet visit. The medical coordinator must give authorization to a PAW vet partner (a veterinary practice that provides PAW with a special fee arrangement) before you schedule the visit. For a current list of PAW medical authorizers, PAW vet partners, and emergency clinics, see the PAW volunteer website at


To receive authorization before taking a foster animal in for medical treatment, contact: (dogs) PAW Medical Coordinator Julie Marks at; or (cats) Kim Nelson at and Lori Simmons at Other medical visit authorizers are listed on the PAW website above.


Q. What if my foster cat or dog seems ill?
A. Contact a PAW medical coordinator immediately. For life-or-death situations after vet office hours, take the animal to an emergency vet clinic immediately. You will be reimbursed for emergency expenses. (Also, many clinics at PETsMARTs are open longer hours and offer savings.) Know where your closest emergency vet is. Here is a partial list:


  • Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic 410-224-0331
  • Emergency Veterinary Clinic (Catonsville) 410-788-7040 and 410-792-8012 Friendship Hospital for Animals (NW, DC) 202-363-7300
  • Metropolitan Emergency Animal Clinic, Inc. (Rockville) 301-770-5226
  • Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital (Laurel) 301-776-7744
  • VCA Veterinary Referral Associates (Gaithersburg) 301-926-3300
  • Veterinary Emergency Service (Alexandria) 703-751-2022
  • Veterinary Emergency Treatment Services (Waldorf) 301-638-0988


Q. Can I leave my PAW foster dog or cat with someone else temporarily?
A. Due to insurance requirements, if you ask someone outside of PAW to care for your foster animal(s), that person must first sign a Hold Harmless Agreement holding PAW, its officers and its volunteers harmless in the event of an injury or mishap. Make sure your temporary caregiver is reliable and knowledgeable. Provide all the information he/she needs to safely handle the foster animal.


Q. What do I do if I am having problems with my foster animal?
A. Please don’t wait – ask for help while the problem is manageable. Contact your coordinator or mentor to discuss the problem and what can be done. Sometimes a particular foster animal is unsuited to a given foster home. We will make every effort to find a new foster home for the animal, but since homes are almost always full, it is difficult to do this on short notice. This makes it particularly important to try to resolve problems before they get out of hand.


Q. What if I have special requirements for applicants for my foster?
A. Write them down and share them with the Dog or Cat Coordinator and volunteers handling web/phone inquiries. Be consistent in what you tell inquirers.


Q. Should I be honest about my foster’s shortcomings?
A. Yes, if the inquirer shows serious interest in the animal, and explain whether the problem is correctable. For example, if the dog marked in your house, advise applicants to prepare to clean up some accidents during the transition period. If a dog lunges at children or is shy of men, be candid. Discourage people who don’t seem capable of working with problems.


Q. What if someone asks to visit my foster animal between shows?
A. To avoid problems, don’t meet an applicant between shows unless the application has already been screened. And even if an application has been screened, it does not mean the applicant is approved. Applicants are not approved until after a successful housecheck. Do not give an animal to an applicant until the adoption is approved and the contract is signed.


Q. When an applicant for my foster is approved, what should I do?
A. Make sure you have an Adoption Kit, including copies of the adoption contract, and that the cat/dog/medical coordinator is aware that medical records must be assembled for the adopter.


Make a list of tips to ease the transition, such as the food and feeding schedule on which the animal thrives. For dogs, advise adopters to buy a leash, harness or martingale collar, and tag collar. For cats, the adopter should buy a collar, carrier, litter box, litter and scratching posts (advise what kind the cats prefers).


Next, arrange a pick-up spot – you can go to the adopter’s home, have the adopter come to your home, or meet at a central location or PAW show. You should go over the adoption contract point by point with the adopter before signing. Try to make sure that they fully understand their responsibilities. Explain that medical records will be sent in a week by the PAW Medical Coordinator.


For safety, secure a filled-out temporary ID tag to the collar and check to make sure the collar fits snugly. Spend time with the adopter and your foster to help ease his/her fears about leaving you. Don’t let a door-darting foster see you leave from the door of the home that faces traffic or the foster may try to get through the door looking for you. Ask the adopter to take the dog to another room as you depart, OR leave through the back door if the yard is fenced.


Q. What if I want to adopt my foster?
A. Please tell the Dog or Cat Coordinator immediately so we’ll know that the animal may no longer be available. You would complete a contract and make a donation. When you realize you might want to adopt the foster, let inquirers know, instead of attempting to drive them away. Explain that the animal has an adoption pending and to meet the other animals.


Q. What are my legal responsibilities of being a Foster with respect to where I live?
A. It is the Foster’s responsibility to make sure they are in compliance with the laws of their respective jurisdictions for any per-household limits on animals. For example, in Prince George’s County and D.C. a permit is required if you have 5 or more animals in your household. Also it is the Fosters responsibility to make sure their animals don’t cause an unsanitary, dangerous, or offensive conditions, and they must not be a public nuisance. To find out the specific codes and laws for your area please contact the Animal Services Division of your local government.



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