Foster a Shelter Pet!
Fostering — temporarily opening your home to an animal in need — offers the one-on-one attention and loving comfort that only a home setting can offer, which is precisely what some of our animals need. It also opens up space in the shelter for other animals needing our help. We rely on hundreds of foster homes every month, for all types of shelter pets!
You choose which type of foster assignments to care for based on your interests, experience and home environment. We provide training and supplies for each type of assignment, you provide the loving home! There are 9 types of foster assignments to choose from:
We typically have the following types of animals looking for foster homes:
- Dogs: adult dogs, often with medical or behavior plans. We occasionally have small dogs looking for placement, but our greatest needs are for large dog fosters. (Check out our adoptable pets page for an idea of the types of dogs we have in care.)
- Cats: adult cats, mama cats with kits.
- Kittens: litters of kittens (2-4 per litter). Our greatest need for kitten fosters is from March to November, and we occasionally have kittens from December to February.
- Small pets: all types, including rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, rats and more!
Review the FAQs below and then submit your application to become a San Diego Humane Society foster volunteer. Applications are reviewed within 72 hours.
Are there currently any special foster needs?
Yes! Due to incidents of canine distemper virus in our shelters, we are currently quarantining dogs who have either tested positive to been exposed to the disease. As a result, we are in critical need of foster homes to care for these dogs! By getting these deserving pets into foster care, we will reduce the spread of disease, increase the quality of life for dogs during their quarantine period, and free up space in our at-capacity shelters.
While dogs exposed to distemper can receive plenty of love and attention in their foster homes, they do have some specific needs, including:
- An enclosed yard for potty breaks, as dogs exposed to distemper cannot be taken for walks in public areas during their quarantine period.
- Foster homes without puppies or senior dogs. If other adult dogs are in the home, they must be fully vaccinated against distemper.
- Space to be kept separate from any other resident pets in the home.
Read on to learn more about fostering or get started by clicking “Apply Now!” above. Our Foster team will support you every step of the way so you are equipped to support these animals who truly need you.
What are the requirements of becoming a foster pet-parent?
- The main volunteer for the family must be at least 18 years old (have this person complete the application). Under 18 but want to get involved? Check out our DIY page or Youth Services page!
- Reliable transportation for transporting animal(s) to vet appointments or evacuating them in case of an emergency.
- Must reside in San Diego County. Our foster pets must not be taken outside of San Diego County.
- A schedule that allows you to meet the needs of foster animals in your care. There are many options for various schedules!
- Completion of online training prior to fostering your first pet.
Do you train me how to care for my foster pet?
We do! All training is virtual and accessible in your volunteer record after your application is processed, typically within one week of applying! Throughout the year, additional hands-on training is offered for bottle-feeding kittens and puppies.
Is there a set time commitment?
The length of foster assignments varies based on the needs of the animal. You will receive an approximate assignment duration before you commit to an animal. Some of our youngest foster animals need around-the-clock care, including feedings every 2-3 hours, while other foster animals can be left at home for up to 10 hours at a time. We will match you with a foster assignment that works with your schedule, availability and interests.
Where do I pick up my foster animals?
You will be given options of animals from a variety of locations and will pick up animals from the campus where the animal is located. We have campuses in San Diego, Oceanside and Escondido, so you can select animals at the locations that are most convenient for you.
Will I need to provide food or supplies?
Supplies are a shared responsibility of San Diego Humane Society and each foster home. Specific supply needs will be discussed for each foster assignment.
Can I foster just one kitten or puppy?
To ensure healthy behavioral development of kittens and puppies under 8 weeks of age, we always try to send them to foster in pairs or litters. If we do have a singleton we strive to match them with an age-appropriate buddy while they develop. Please be prepared to take at least 2 kittens or puppies for the duration of your assignment.
Can my foster animal meet my resident pets?
SDHS recommends complete separation of foster animals and resident pets for the health and safety of all involved. If a foster volunteer chooses to allow their resident pets and foster animals to interact, this must be done in a safe and supervised way. Your resident pets should be up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations and never be left alone with a foster animal. Information and resources on safely introducing animals can be found here. Please note: SDHS is not liable for any illness or injury between foster and resident pets.
What happens to my foster if I am going out of town?
Your foster team will coordinate an alternative foster placement or schedule your animal to be housed in the shelter while you are out of town. We ask that you do not take them with you or use private pet-sitters, since these private parties have not gone through the SDHS foster trainings. We are here to support our fosters so you can enjoy your time away!
Can I adopt my foster animals?
Yes! We love when our foster families fall in love with their foster pet and choose to adopt! However, if your goal is ultimately to adopt, it is unnecessary to foster the animal first because we have an Adoption Guarantee! If you adopt and then need to return your adopted animal for any reason, you can do so by just giving us a call. So there’s no need to foster an animal as a "test run." Read more here about our adoption process!
Is it difficult to say goodbye?
Yes, it can be. Fosters definitely need the ability to say goodbye, but rest assured our Foster team will help you through it. Please remember that fostering is a temporary situation and letting go of one foster pet enables you to help another in need. Although each adoption saves a life, a great foster parent can save many lives by socializing and rehabilitating pets who need a little extra time and care.
What do other fosters have to say?
"Being a first time foster mom to two kittens so small (9 days old) was daunting at first, but within a day their need for me outweighed my reservations over what I was capable of. I can't believe I've had them for a week already! I'm so looking forward to getting them all set for their future homes."
Queens and kits:
"I began fostering feral mom cats with babies during the 8 years I trapped, neutered and returned (TNR) community cats because there wasn’t any foster resources for these expectant cats. Having my own animals and fostering shelter cats give deep meaning to my life as well as shape who I am. Simply put, fostering is a life changing experience. There is no comparable joy in knowing that by opening up your heart and home to fostering, you truly help save lives and you have a hand in bringing many years of joy and companionship of a pet to someone out there. I foster because I want to make a difference and I know that if only we each do our part! Fostering one more mama cat with her kittens won’t change the world. What matters is that I help that one cat and that one litter."
Mama Dogs and puppies:
"When I first started fostering the thought of a mom and babies seemed a little scary and overwhelming to me. How would I care for both? What if she didn’t like my other animals? What if she didn’t like me? After trying it once, I was hooked!! Mom does ALL THE WORK!!!! She feeds them, cleans them, watches over them. It actually makes the assignment much easier. As far as her getting along with my animals, I’ve learned to keep them separate at first and slowly introduce them with time. So far, it’s all worked out really well. I ALWAYS end up falling in love with the moms after seeing the work the put in. It’s a beautiful process to watch and be a part of. It’s definitely worthwhile!!!"
"Fostering is always fun, but fostering behavior dogs...that's where the real magic happens! Oftentimes, when I pick up a new behavior foster, I'm met with a pair of shy, fearful eyes. Yet, with a little bit of love, trust and the help of a confident resident dog, their true personalities shine. Sometimes, these pups just need a break from the shelter and a soft place to rest their head-then that’s when their sweet, sassy, silly and mischievous sides come out! It's absolutely incredible the transformation that can happen in a few weeks if you open up your heart and home to a behavior foster. The best part? When you hear that your little foster baby headed off to their new home with a big smile on their face and knowing you were a big part of that."
"I got in to fostering in a bit of a roundabout way but I have been fostering puppies and kittens with SDHS for quite a few years now. Many of the fosters I take need special medical attention or have contracted or have been exposed to panleuk. There are not many people who want to take kittens who have been exposed to panleuk, which is really shame because anyone can foster them and caring for those kittens have been some of the most rewarding fostering experiences I have ever had. Although it takes some special skills they can be easily taught, and getting a sick kitten healthy and then dropping them off to eventually find their forever home is incredibly rewarding. Fostering orphan animals in itself is very rewarding but with cases of panleuk exposure you know that when you foster that kitten you have in fact truly and very directly helped to save that animal’s life, and that is a feeling that you really cannot compare and one I have yet to find anywhere else."