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DSPCA Pet Fostering for Seniors

Monday, 1 February 2010

The DSPCA provide all the equipment and food needed so there is no expense for the senior, but they benefit from the company of the pet and are providing the DSPCA with a much needed service.
Dublin SPCA receives hundreds of orphaned kittens and puppies and must find temporary foster homes for them until they are ready to be placed up for adoption.

Lori Davis: Fundraiser for the Senior Fostering Programme DSPCA

Dublin SPCA Recruiting Seniors for a New Pet Fostering Programme

Dublin SPCA & Home Instead Senior Care have started a unique pet fostering service for senior citizens which enables them to foster a cat or dog for a number of weeks.

Dublin SPCA receives hundreds of orphaned kittens and puppies and must find temporary foster homes for them until they are ready to be placed up for adoption. We also take in older animals or animals needing medical treatment that would heal more quickly within a home rather than in a shelter environment. The length of stay in a foster home varies from 1 to 7 weeks and on occasion longer depending on the circumstance of the animal.

How does it benefit seniors?
Extensive scientific research has proven that having a pet helps older people maintain a sense of purpose, feel less lonely and depressed, and encourages seniors to be healthier. Pet fostering is ideal for those that do not wish to commit to owning a pet full-time but would like to avail of the many benefits of pet ownership.

What do the DSPCA provide you with?
The Dublin SPCA provide the 'foster parents' with all of the leads, water-bowls, kitty-lits, beds and food - with thanks to supporters Nestle Purina - that are required so that there is no cost at all to the foster parent.

Foster Programme Orientation - Thursday 4 Feb at 2pm
The Dublin SPCA is hosting an Orientation for seniors to learn more about the programme at the Dublin SPCA shelter on Mount Venus Road in Rathfarnham on Thursday 4 February from 2pm to 4pm. If you would like to attend, please register by emailing or ring Lori Davis on 087 903 2254 for more information.

"Home Instead is proud to be working with the Dublin SPCA on a programme that will give older people a greater sense of purpose and meaning, and animals a second chance," said Ed Murphy, Managing Director of Home Instead.

Lori Davis, Dublin SPCA explains: "Animals can have a profound and positive impact on people. As an organization, we look for ways in which we can help animals and improve people's lives. Through our Senior Pet Fostering programme, we will save the lives of orphaned, abandoned and forgotten animals and provide meaningful experiences for seniors. This programme fulfills our core philosophy that by fostering a compassionate relationship between humans and animals, we create a kinder and more caring society."

If you would like to get involved in our Senior Best Friends Fostering programme or have parents, grandparents, relatives, friends or family that you think might benefit from this programme, please email

Lori Davis: DSPCA fostering Program

1.How many kittens / puppies are they looking to foster out in 1 week; 1 month; 1 year?
The programme started last year and they can foster more than 800 pets in a year, so 80 a month and up to 20 a week. Spring is baby season, so many kittens and puppies are born at this time and there is an influx of animals into the shelter.

2.Where are they found and in what circumstances?
Most of the time a member of the public will contact the shelter. They may have found a litter of kittens locally, the mother may have abandoned them or may have passed away or been injured. There own pets may have given birth and they don't have the space to house them. Stray cats that have not been spayed may have given birth. They also safe animals from un-safe conditions and mistreatment.

3.What age are they?
The majority of the animals in the foster programme are kittens and puppies but there are also some older pets, for example Mr. Kibbles is a beautiful cat who was brought to the shelter from an older couple. The gentleman's wife had passed away and he felt he could no longer take care of Mr. Kibbles. Sometimes the animals might be sick or need medical treatment and people are not in a position to take care of them.

4.Why do they need foster care before finding a home?
There is an over-population of cats and dogs so the shelter is very busy. There are 125 pods/spaces for animals and more than one puppy for example can be in this space but they need to accommodate 800 a year! It helps the shelter by expanding to people's homes and freeing up space in the shelter for other cases.

A kitten is vaccinated 9 weeks after it is born and a puppy is vaccinated 8 weeks after it's born. It is then kept in the shelter one more week for observation and then re-homed. Up until this time they are very susceptible to disease, bugs and germs, in particular cat flu which would kill a small kitten. It is much safer for the pets to be out of the shelter at this time as there is less chance of them picking up a bug from another animal. If the kitten no longer has her mother during this period, then they are not receiving the protective anti-bodies from the mother's milk. The best scenario for them is to spend time in a safe home.

Some animals may simply be too nervous or stressed in the busy shelter and a quiet home environment with an affectionate minder calms their nerves and is far more beneficially to the animal.

5.How long do they stay in foster care?
It depends on each case, sometimes they may be ill and need to be treated for a few weeks, for example ringworm takes five weeks to treat. Other times they may be waiting to be vaccinated so this could be 8 or nine weeks.

6.Why are you targeting seniors in this programme?
One of the main reasons that a senior may not have a pet is because they feel that they may not be able to take care of them on a full-time basis. This programme gives them the opportunity to mind a pet and have that companionship for a short term period that is suitable for them.

The DSPCA is 170years old this year and it costs €1.8million to run the shelter each year. The shelter would be running at a deficit if it were not for the gifts that they receive from the public and a huge majority of these gifts comes from seniors (legacy gifts). This accounts for 30% of the total operations costs each year. The DSPCA really wanted to give back to this group of people who have been their benefactors.

They also hold events twice a year to honour their members and thank them for all their help saving these animals lives.
It is also a huge concern to seniors about what will happen to their pet if they pass away. The DSPCA also have a new service Pet Life for seniors. If they pass away they will re-home their pets, offering them a form of life assurance.

7.How does this benefit the seniors?
Research has shown that seniors who have pets can be healthier, happier and more integrated into society. They meet their neighbours as they're out walking their dog and experience more social interaction and exercise.

They are less lonely and have a purpose in life, routine and responsibility. They also have companionship at home and often as their spouse may have passed away and their children may have left home, their pet becomes their best friend. Even stroking a pet and having that interaction can be a very positive thing.
Often when they foster a pet they remember why they loved having a pet so much in the first place and this can reduce heart rate, depression and even cholesterol!

8.Do they receive equipment to take care of them?
The DSPCA provides them with everything they need to take care of the pets. On collection they give them all the information needed to take care of them and what to look out for. They give them all their food, carriers, litter tray, feeding bowls etc. If the pet is on medication they provide this along with veterinary care when needed. They even pay for the cost of transport for anyone who might be physically impaired.

9.How do they get the pets, what is the process?
The course coordinator has a list of people partaking in the programme. When an animal comes into the shelter they phone and email the members and tell them what animal they have and how long they need it fostered for. If the members are available they let the coordinator know and they work it out from there. They will collect the animal in the next day or two with all the equipment needed.

The programme director follows up the day after collection and once a week from then on. They are also setting up a foster buddy system so that first time fosters have someone who lives locally and who has already gone through the process at hand 24hrs to call with questions or concerns, providing a social network in their own community.

10.Do they ever keep them?
Sometimes they go on to adopt them as they have formed such a bond with the pet and realize that they do have the capacity to have them on a full term basis.

11.Have you any happy stories?
Maureen adopted a beautiful puppy who was saved from a puppy farm and the two of them are inseparable. 76 animals were saved in this case and only half of them survived.

For more information on the fostering program contact the DSPCA: or phone 01 493 5502 or 01 493 5504.
The DSPCA is located at Mount Venus Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16