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Foster

Foster Criteria:

To become a foster, you must reside in Harris County or the City of Houston. There is no fee associated with becoming a foster. The shelter will provide a crate (if needed), food (if needed), and other species specific items. Fosters are responsible for food and water bowls and lots of TLC.

All vetting is done through the Harris County Animal Shelter, free of charge. As a foster, any vetting done outside our facility is considered to be an out-of-pocket expense with no reimbursement. We do offer an emergency line with after-hours care should an animal need to see a veterinarian.

How to Foster:

In order to foster, you must make an appointment to come in and fill out the paperwork and go through a quick orientation with a member of our Transfer Department.
Programs We Offer:
Foster for Transport (short-term)

Animals at risk of euthanasia chosen by our staff for transfer to other areas of the county via Transfer Partners.

  • Each animal will have a specific time range that a foster is needed (usually 1-3 weeks for puppies or up to 5 weeks for adults) so the animal is not in the shelter being exposed to diseases. 
  • Most Transfer Partners have different requirements for how long we must hold before transfer and vaccinations. Because of these requirements, these animals are not available for local adoption and need not be marketed. 
  • We will communicate with you to arrange your foster’s transfer date and any possible treatments needed.  
  • Once an animal enters foster care, we will submit the animal to our transport partner and transport date will be set.
  • You will need to be available to come back to the shelter for medical treatments or a vaccination prior to transport.
  • Animals on our “Needs Foster” list will have guaranteed transport. Any animal not on this list may not be accepted into the program immediately and may be a part of the Foster Friends Program (details below).


Foster Friends (longer-term, hard-to-place animals)

Animals that may be adoptable, but need help with socialization, minor illnesses, grooming, or if there just isn't space at the shelter. Animals in the Foster Friends Program are available to rescuers, adopters, and transporters to tag and we will continue to network these animals to our rescue and transport partners as well as through social media for potential adopters.

  • The animal cannot require any type of medical treatment that is not available from the shelter.
  • Foster must commit to attending AT LEAST two events EACH month in order to get the animal the visibility it needs.
  • Weekly mobile adoptions are held each Saturday at different locations within 15 miles of the shelter. The locations of the events can be found on our Events Calendar located on the website at http://publichealth.harriscountytx.gov/Newsroom/Events 
  • Foster must email the foster email NO LATER than close of business the Wednesday before the event to let us know you will be attending the event. If you choose to attend a mobile adoption event, you must remain with your foster at the event for a minimum of 2 hours.
  • Dogs will have no spot reserved on the bus, cats will have a kennel reserved.
  • Events are held from 11:30am to 3:30pm (unless otherwise specified on our Events Calendar).
  • Your animal may be chosen for a transport or rescue at ANY time. If you plan to adopt, please let us know IMMEDIATELY. All Foster Friends remain on the website for rescue and adoption and the animal will be sent to our Transfer Partners for potential placement.

Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do when I bring my foster home?

The shelter is a stressful place. When you first bring your foster home, it is a good idea to allow them to decompress. We recommend having a space set up for your foster animal like a crate or an X-pen (even a bathroom will work) that is just for your foster to hang out and relax. Meeting new dogs, all the neighbors and their dogs and too much freedom is the last thing the animal needs for the first few days. A nice bed to lay his head on and some good meals will help him learn what he’s in for – a life of happiness and love.

How should I introduce my foster to my residence pets?

While there are many different ways to do this, we encourage you always introduce animals on neutral territory, avoiding nose-to-nose contact as the first way of meeting. Give the dogs a chance to sniff each other from behind. Keep both dogs on a leash until you have seen how they will interact in this new setting. The key is to go slowly and supervise until both animals are comfortable with each other.

Another way to introduce your foster to your resident dog is to go for a walk as soon as you bring your new foster home. This will tire out both animals and associate the other animal with something they like; walks!

Your foster dog should always be fed in a crate. New dogs should be fed away from other dogs until you know how they react with food. Be sure dogs do not interfere with each other during feeding.

The key is to be confident and calm. If you are calm, your foster and resident dog will stay calm. Both will look to you for cues on how to proceed in this new situation. By staying calm you are letting the dogs know that this is a good situation.

Should I crate my foster?

Yes! Crating or otherwise safely securing the dog at night or when leaving the home is HIGHLY advised. It will give your resident animals a break and also protect your home from accidents and/or destructiveness. With time, the crate will become your foster’s safe spot and will go in on their own when it is time to relax.

How do I potty train my foster?

Always keep your foster on a leash or in a restricted area (fenced yard) when it’s time to do their business. Don't assume the foster is house-trained -- changes in homes and families are stressful for the dog and it may "forget" or need some time to adjust to your routine. Praise when foster dog does its business outside, don't just let it out and assume it knows what to do. Go with the dog and as soon as it happens, quietly praise. Best practice is to assume the dog has no training and proceed as if it’s a puppy, with frequent opportunities to go outside: after meals, playtime, upon waking up in the morning and from naps, after excitement. Some dogs just need a refresher to get back on track. NEVER PUNISH A DOG FOR SOILING INAPPROPRIATELY. Secure the dog and quietly clean it up out of the dog's sight, using a cleaner with enzymes.

Are my animals at risk of contracting any illnesses?

We always advise a foster to be vigilant in cleaning up accidents, washing hands and bedding, and watching for symptoms of illness, if your animals are up to date on all their vaccinations (rabies, DHPP, and bordatella), the chances of your pets contracting any illness is very slim. Should your pet come down with any illness, due to the shelter’s limited resources, it will be up to you, the pet owner, to treat.

What symptoms of illness should I watch for?

Shelter animals can carry an array of diseases, however, if caught early, can be easily treated. Please contact us via the foster email should any of the following symptoms occur: nasal or ocular discharge, lethargy, lack of interest in food or water, watery stool, bloody diarrhea, or a hacking cough with or without the presence of mucus.

Should your foster exhibit any of these symptoms for an extended period of time or experience severe lethargy with no willingness to stand or walk, pale gums, or consistent vomiting and/or diarrhea, please contact our emergency line- do NOT wait until morning.

What if my foster has separation anxiety?

If your foster has separation anxiety, counterconditioning might reduce or resolve the problem. Counterconditioning is a treatment process that changes an animal’s fearful, anxious or aggressive reaction to a pleasant, relaxed one instead. For dogs with separation anxiety, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food. To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house, you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish.

For example, try giving your dog a KONG® stuffed with something really tasty, like low-fat cream cheese, spray cheese or low-fat peanut butter, frozen banana and cottage cheese, or canned dog food and kibble. A KONG can even be frozen so that getting all the food out takes even more of your dog’s time. Be sure to remove these special toys as soon as you return home so that your dog only has access to them and the high-value foods inside when he’s by himself.

What can I do to make my Foster Friend more adoptable?

Shelter dogs and cats come with a variety of backgrounds. To make an animal more adoptable you can do the following:

  • Take a great photo of your foster- make the animal the clear focus, use a neutral background, and take in landscape mode (horizontal)
  • Teach your foster manners (no jumping on guests, using the litterbox, socializing with other dogs, cats, and kids) 
  • Visibility- post your fosters of various social media sites. If there is an interested adopter, please let the foster department know
What if I cannot foster any longer?

We understand that life happens and we encourage you to try to network your foster in order to find another home. If you absolutely need to bring your foster back to the shelter, he or she will be at risk of euthanasia unless another foster is found.

Is there a community where I can ask more detailed questions?

Yes! Please request to join our Volunteer & Foster group on Facebook at “Harris County Animal Shelter Volunteers and Fosters.” Your posts will require approval but the group is closely monitored so it will not take long to get answers. We are a family and want to help each other out!

You can find our full Foster Policy and paperwork here. The original signed copy must be handed in when you arrive at the shelter for your orientation/pick-up.