VIEW ON FOSTERING:
At the 2009 AGM of the National Council of SPCAs, the SPCA uMgeni (formerly Howick) proposed that "at the discretion of individual Societies (for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – SPCAs) animals may be placed in suitable temporary foster homes provided such foster homes are assessed, approved and regularly monitored by SPCA officers.”
"Fostering would be subject to strict records being maintained and with the SPCA retaining full rights to the fostered animals.”
The advantages of fostering were put forward, the issue was debated. The motion was defeated. Arguments against fostering included:-
- There is an over-population of animals and insufficient responsible, permanent homes.
- Fostering would lead to more animals being kept on a temporary basis but not necessarily being permanently homed.
- In fact their chances of a permanent home decreased as individuals went to SPCAs to look for a pet but would be unwilling or unable to visit private homes to view animals.
- Fosterers may be unwilling to permit or unable to accommodate such viewing.
- There are insufficient adequate fosterers. An organisation which fosters is appealing for more people to come forward for this function.
- Not all animals at SPCAs can be fostered in that many are awaiting the outcome of Court cases and to allow them out of the custody of an SPCA could breach terms and conditions of their seizure and therefore damage the case.
- SPCA Inspectors have a heavy workload which already includes the legal requirement of a pre-home and post-home check for every potential or actual adoption.
- Assessing foster homes and ongoing monitoring increases the workload, potentially to the point that investigations of cruelty cases or emergency response could be compromised.
- Above all, it was felt to be unfair to the animals. Pets bond. To place an animal in a temporary home for an unknown and non-prescribed period leads to bonding between animal/s and human/s. To then release the animal/s to another home causes unnecessary stress and the animal having to adapt yet again to new surroundings, new circumstances, new people and in all likelihood differing behavioural boundaries.
- Fostering is especially difficult with regard to animals that have been confiscated (legally seized due to cruelty, abuse, abandonment or neglect). They bond strongly with their perceived rescuers so it is important that they are not then put through a further experience of being "passed on.”
- Many SPCA animals have special needs including behavioural and emotional. The quality of a "home” does not relate solely to the property, diet and degree of attention.
- Legal issues arise especially in relation to paying for veterinary accounts if a fostered animal becomes injured, sick or attacks or infects another animal on the fosterer's property. There is no contingency for this and SPCAs cannot be held liable yet fosterers expect some kind of insurance or protection for such eventualities.
The issue of fostering continues to arise. To establish a separate fostering unit of personnel to oversee fostering involves finance. Many SPCAs find themselves in financial dire straits already.
Assessing individuals and properties requires knowledge and experience – a qualification preferably – and cannot be left or delegated, no matter how well-meaning those people may be.
Adopting from an SPCA
SPCAs do not give away animals nor do they sell animals - animals are ADOPTED from SPCA's.
This may seem like we are playing word games but there is a big difference. Let us explain.
All cats and dogs that are adopted from an SPCA will be sterilised to prevent them from either having (or siring) any unwanted litters; they will be vaccinated to safeguard them from contracting diseases such as distemper or parvovirus; they will be dewormed to assist in the elimination of internal parasites, they may also be dipped to ensure that there are no external parasites; and they will receive some form of identification (either a microchip or a collar bearing an ID disc). This is what prospective owners are paying for whenever they adopt an animal from an SPCA. The actual animal is for free!!
If you take into consideration that simply to sterilise a dog at your local veterinarian can cost anything between R1,150 and R1,350 and that a vaccination and deworming can cost R350 and upwards it quickly becomes apparent that the R450 to R500 adoption fee that SPCAs charge to adopt an animal, covering all of these expenses – and more, is not expensive at all.
Certainly if we start to look at the prices charged by ‘back–yard' breeders who sell animals through classified advertisements, at pet shops, flea markets or over the Internet, it again becomes very clear what good value is offered by SPCAs. It is very important to remember that the back-yard breeder is generally not concerned where their puppies or kittens end up, nor do they usually ensure that the animal has a clean bill of health – we only have to count the number of times SPCAs are contacted by broken hearted owners who have bought an animal only to have it fall ill (and even die) a short time after the purchase due to illness or disease. Owners have been known to run up high veterinary bills trying to treat a sick pup or kitten that they have only just bought. SPCAs on the other hand do their utmost to only home healthy animals – and if the animal does fall ill within the first 7 days of adoption they will treat the animal at their own cost. This does not unfortunately cover an animal that has been injured through the new owner's neglect – such as an animal that is run over due to the gate being left open for example.
The public may argue that to purchase a puppy or kitten from the local pet shop does not cost anything like the cost of adopting an animal from an SPCA. Again, it should be reiterated that the animal does not cost anything when adopting an animal from the SPCA – the fee charged merely subsidises and does not even cover the cost of the care and treatment provided to the animal and we would hope that anyone purchasing an animal from a pet shop would have the animal sterilised, vaccinated and dewormed – to not do so would be irresponsible and would not be putting the welfare of the animal first. Paying a private veterinarian to carry out these procedures will definitely cost much more than the SPCA adoption fee.
The officially adopted Statement of Policy of the SPCA movement is to "discourage the keeping of domestic animals by those who do not have the facilities, time, financial means or level of interest necessary to ensure a satisfactory standard of care and husbandry for their pets” – domestic animals deserve to be loved, cared for, taken to the vet when necessary, played with, taken for walks and so on. SPCAs are careful to ensure that these qualities are available in all prospective homes. This is why we do not home dogs just for security – and rather advise people to contact a security firm and hire a guard if they are concerned about safety. Our animals are homed as PETS and of course, if these animals bond with their owners, they will express natural behaviour, becoming protective of their new home and family and raise the alarm by barking at intruders that come onto their property.
Members of the public have asked the question "If SPCAs have so many animals – why do they not give them away for free?” Whilst this question has already been answered, it should be added that if a prospective owner cannot afford to pay the modest adoption fee, how would they be able to pay for quality food, veterinary fees and the other costs that arise in providing the best level of care for your pets. SPCAs home animals responsibly as we intend for homed animals to remain in that same home for the rest of their lives which may be in excess of 10 years. In an attempt to ensure this, all properties are inspected before an SPCA animal is adopted. This is to establish that the property is large enough for the species of animal being homed, that any animals already living on the property are in good condition and will accept the animal being adopted, that the walls and gates are high enough to keep the animal in (obviously this particular concern would not strictly apply to cats but they would still require a safe environment) and to ensure that there is some form of suitable shelter for the animal. No animal will be homed if it is going to be put onto a chain – not even a running chain, as this is no life for any animal. It may seem that the criteria for adopting an animal are stringent, but they are entirely in the best interests of the animal.
The SPCA has a saying that goes – ‘owning an animal is a privilege and not a right' and the animals that come into our care are either strays that have become lost or been abandoned as well as cats and dogs that are unwanted and are handed over to SPCAs; and of course animals that have been neglected and ill-treated and removed by SPCA Inspectors in order to find new loving homes where they will never again be subjected to any form of ill-treatment. We take this onerous responsibility very seriously and Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals cannot permit any of these animals to go to any homes where they will be anything else but loved and cared for – we cannot be part of letting these animals down.
Updated: 22 March 2017