Life-Saving

Dog and Puppy

Foster Care

Guide


Welcome New Foster Family!

Thank you for taking the leap into welcoming a foster animal into your home! Our foster program was created to give animals that have difficulty in the shelter a calm environment where they can grow or heal before being adopted. Foster parents like you make that possible!

While your animal is in foster, KHS supplies all of the food and medical supplies necessary. If your foster animal becomes ill, our veterinary staff will examine and treat them. Please do not take your foster animal to your own vet. KHS is not able to reimburse for any outside vet expenses you incur.

Click through the topics below. You’ll find a wealth of resources to help make your foster experience as smooth as possible. Click here if you prefer a printable document. Once you are an active foster, you will find an updated version of this information with links to further information on many of the topics.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need further guidance.

Sincerely,

Kentucky Humane Society Foster Team

Things to keep in mind with foster animals

While fostering can be a very fun and rewarding experience, there are a few guidelines that will help make the experience safer and more enjoyable for everybody. Below are some of the basic rules and guidelines for foster families. Please review them carefully, then click through the rest of our foster guide to read additional information about our foster program. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us!

  • Be prepared for anything. Remember, we don’t know what many of these animals have been through. We don’t know their past, we don’t know how they have been treated, we don’t know how their living situation once was, and most importantly, we don’t know their true personality. All we do know is what we see here at our facility and what little (if any) information their previous caretaker provided. We try our very best to tell you as much as we can about any animal(s) we are sending home with you, but they may have a very different personality once they are comfortable.

  • Never leave young children unattended with any foster. This includes dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens. Children and animals can both be unpredictable. Even fun play can get out of hand quickly. Remember that what occurs in your home affects these animals now and in the future. We want to set everyone up for success.

  • Inform us if the foster bites anyone (you included) right away. This includes any time teeth break skin, even if only in play.

  • Keep dogs on leash unless confined in your home or a fenced back yard.

  • Do not take dogs to off-leash dog areas or dog parks.

  • Keep all foster animals separate from resident pets for AT LEAST the first 7 days. Foster animals need time to decompress from the stress of transport and being in the shelter. This separation gives them time to become comfortable in your home without the added stress of multi-animal interactions. Remember that what occurs in your home affects these animals now and in the future. We want to set everyone up for success.

  • Bring your foster animal(s) in for needed medical care and be on time to appointments. If you are running behind, contact us as soon as you know you will be late. We have a very full schedule at the shelter and this helps ensure we can provide you and your fosters that best care and attention possible.

  • Report any behavior or medical concerns to us right away. Behavior concerns can be emailed to foster@kyhumane.org. Medical concerns can be emailed to fostertech@kyhumane.org.

  • Utilize only positive reinforcement training. KHS does not permit the use of choke chains, prong collars, electric collars (for a fence or otherwise), leash corrections, verbal or physical reprimands, or any other training or management methods along those lines.

    • If your foster has behaviors you are concerned about or would like to change, or even if you just want to work on basic manners with them, contact us before beginning any training with them. We have a trained behavior staff who are more than happy to help you work through any issues.

Contact Information

Foster Manager - Kelly Ledtje

Foster Assistant - coming soon!

Cat Coordinator - Olivia Dye

Email:

Office: 502-366-3355 (ext 4007)

Emergency Line: 502-515-3135

Please note: Email is the most effective way of communication as we have several staff members monitoring our inbox. We do not communicate via text or Facebook as these are not reliable forms of communication for our entire team to keep up with. Thank you for your understanding!

Why Our Animals Need Foster

Animals that enter the foster program do so for many reasons and can spend anywhere from a few days to a few months in foster depending on their reason for foster placement. Animals that need to be placed in foster typically are:

Too young or underweight

Kittens and puppies, either in a litter, paired with another orphan kitten or puppy, or alone, are fostered until they reach eight weeks old and weigh two pounds. Most kittens and puppies are fostered from 2-6 weeks. These animals do not have a mama that comes with them, and in some instances may need bottle-feeding.

Nursing moms and babies

Litters of kittens and puppies with their moms remain in foster until all of the babies are eight weeks old or weigh two pounds. There are instances when the mom pushes a baby away or a baby will not nurse, so sometimes supplemental bottle-feeding is required. Generally, mom does all of the work until the babies begin to have teeth. She will feed them, stimulate them to go to the bathroom, and clean up after them.

Member of the Safe Haven or Safety Net programs

KHS partners with the Center for Women and Families for our Safe Haven program. This program provides temporary care for those affected by domestic violence while they seek services and housing. It’s important not to photograph these animals, share them on social media, and to restrict their time spent out in the greater community. These animals can remain in foster for up to three months.

Our Safety Net program provides foster care for owned pets while their owners are temporarily unable to care for them due to illness/injury, housing crisis or other emergency. This program is often a last resort for families whose only alternative would be to give up their beloved pet.

Ill or recovering from injuries or surgery

Dogs and cats recovering from minor and common health ailments will be sent to foster to recover outside of the shelter in a calm and quiet setting. While these are usually minor issues, it’s still recommended that these animals remain separated from resident animals to avoid spreading any illness. We also receive animals that require special surgeries such as amputations that need time in foster to recover.

Members of the Adoption Ambassador Program

Adoption ambassador animals remain in foster care until adoption. Any animal that goes to foster is eligible to stay on foster until adopted (with occasional exceptions), but sometimes we have animals who we specifically want in this program. These animals are often too scared in the shelter, are young and active and don't do well in the shelter, or have other needs that make them unsuited to be on the adoption floor. These animals remain in foster until adopted, which can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months with the average length of stay being 1 month or less. Animals are also listed on our website with professional photos.

Preparing for Your Foster

Before bringing your foster animal home, it’s important to have a suitable place for them to stay that’s already prepared, such as a bathroom. The room should:

    • Be temperature controlled (and indoors!)

    • Disinfected with a mild bleach solution (1 part bleach to 32 parts water)

    • Separate from household pets

    • Able to withstand messes such as vomit, feces, urine, spilled water, etc.

    • Free of breakable or fragile items

    • Free of electrical wires with all outlets blocked

    • Free of small items

    • Have secured windows that are closed or screened off

    • Have secured appliances

    • Have toilet seats closed

KHS provides all of the supplies you’ll need to properly care for your foster free of charge!

When Your Foster Arrives

When you welcome your foster animal(s) into your home, here are a few ways you can set them up for success!

  • Do not put too much on your foster animal right away. Allow them a chance to settle in to your home without a lot of visitors coming over. It can be very exciting to have a new foster animal, but they have gone through a lot of changes in a short period of time and need the opportunity to adjust.

  • It’s important to keep dogs and puppies crated when unattended, or in a separate, enclosed room.

  • Unless dogs are in a fenced area, they should always be kept on a leash while outdoors.

    • Refrain from taking puppies outside until they’re 4-5 weeks of age and have received their first round of vaccinations.

  • Do not bring foster dogs or puppies to the dog park!

    • It’s unsafe and can create the potential for fighting, conflict, disease transmission, and potential injury.

  • Be aware of the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List. There are common plants that are toxic to animals when ingested and must be removed from the animal’s reach:

    • Lilies

    • Sago palms

    • Aloe plants

    • Asparagus Ferns

Foster animals should be isolated from your household pets for the first 7-10 days, regardless of sickness.

Foster Animals and Your Pets

Foster animals should be isolated from your household pets for the first 7-10 days. Other things to consider are:

  • Mother dogs with puppies

Mama dogs are likely to be highly protective of their puppies, and should be completely isolated from other pets when she’s with them.

  • Ill animals

Animals suffering from illness should be completely isolated from other animals in the home. Wash your hands thoroughly with an antibacterial soap after handling foster animals regardless of whether or not they are known to be sick.

  • Shared items

Do not allow your animals to share toys, dishes, or litter pans with foster animals.

  • Puppies

Puppies cannot be introduced to any other animals until they have their first round of vaccinations.

If your foster pup is over 6 weeks and you have a friendly resident dog, you can introduce them slowly under your supervision after the 7-10 day quarantine period. Please remember that there’s always the chance that a puppy could still transmit illness to your animal. KHS provides all vet care to the foster animal, but cannot treat your animal, even if it contracts something you believe came from the foster animal. Introduce animals at your own risk.

Moms and Puppies

For the first two weeks after birth, mom does everything necessary to care for her babies. Mom and her litter should be mostly left alone, besides to feed her and provide potty breaks. Provide them with a quiet, private, and calm nesting area, and allow mom to have a few days to adjust to her new space. Make sure she has access to fresh food, water, and a clean nesting area.

Each mother dog is different. Some may allow you to handle and interact with her puppies, but some may not. If she’s okay with you handling her puppies, doing so throughout the day is a great way to begin socializing them early. Mother dogs may be allowed to interact with your animals AFTER being separated completely from her puppies. Mom needs socialization as well, but give her the opportunity to approach you, and stop the session immediately if you notice signs of aggression such as swishing tail, ears laid back, head jerks toward you, tensing up, moving away, or growling. Move slowly and use caution when reaching into the nesting area.

When fostering a mom and puppies, watch for:

  • Maternal aggression

It’s normal for mom to be aggressive toward people and other animals while she’s around her puppies. Do not introduce household animals to her at this time. If the aggression becomes severe, contact the foster team for assistance.

  • Maternal neglect

In about 8% of cases, puppies die due to poor maternal care. Some dogs lack maternal instincts, or stop caring for sick or weak puppies. Environmental stress can contribute to such cases, so take care to provide a calm space for her and her litter. Contact the foster team if you notice signs such as the mother avoiding feeding and grooming, or if she begins ignoring their cries.

Feeding

Puppies

  • Weaning can occur gradually around 4-5 weeks using food soaked in warm water or mixed with canned food. After the puppy begins to accept the solid food, gradually reduce the amount of water with each subsequent feeding. Begin offering dry food on a free feeding basis.

  • Puppies should be fed frequent, small meals, rather than 1 - 2 big meals each day. Click here for more info.


Feeding Adult Dogs

  • The amount of food a dog needs daily is determined by its weight. The recommended amount can be split in two and fed twice during the day. We recommend feeding foster dogs separate from other pets and away from children. Pick up the bowl and put it away when they finish eating. Use the feeding chart on this page to determine how much your foster animal will need.

Training

While animals are in foster, begin to note any behavioral issues you observe, and contact the foster team for assistance with training or if behavior becomes severe or dangerous in any way.

Positive Reinforcement Training

KHS solely endorses the use of positive reinforcement training, free from scolding and harsh correction. Decades of research supports positive reinforcement training as the most humane and effective form of training.

Please keep in mind that we do not allow the use of choke collars, prong collars, electric collars, spray bottles, leash corrections, or any other form of physical or verbal correction/punishment of foster animals. If you need help with a behavior concern, contact us and we are happy to help.

  • Do not scold or punish bad behavior.

    • When an unwanted behavior is observed, redirect the dog’s attention with a kissy noise or toy, then praise the dog for giving you its attention.

    • Punishment can cause fear which can lead to aggression.

    • Praise and reward good behavior.

    • When a behavior is immediately followed by a positive outcome such as a treat or praise, that behavior is strengthened.

    • For more information, check out Perfect Puppy in 7 Days: How to Start Your Puppy Off Right by Dr. Sophia Yin or Puppy Start Right: Foundation Training for the Companion Dog by Dr. Kenneth Martin and Debbie Martin. There are also plenty of resources available on our active foster website. You will receive the link to that once you become an active foster.

Housetraining

Setting puppies up for success during the housetraining process is essential. Give puppies frequent breaks, bringing them back to the same spot to relieve themselves every 30-60 minutes when active (waking from a nap, playing, after eating). A puppy can hold their bladder for one hour for each month of age.

5 Steps to Successful Potty Training

  • Prevent accidents

  • Reward elimination that happens when and where you want it to

  • Anticipate bathroom needs

  • Interrupt accidents, but avoid punishing or scaring them

  • Clean up accidents with a pet specific enzyme cleaner

Crate Training

Crate training is an important part of house training. The crate should be large enough for your puppy to stand up, turn around, and stretch out in. Your puppy may grow and require a larger crate, so please let us know if you need a larger one.

Your foster dog should also have a short term confinement area, such as the crate, and a long term confinement area such as a baby gated section of the house or room.

When beginning crate training, feed your puppy in the crate, provide stuffed chew toys in the crate, and play crate games to build positive associations with the crate. Keep sessions short and fun, and keep your dog in the crate for short periods of time while you’re home.

NEVER use the crate as a form of punishment.

Mouthing

Discouraging puppy mouthing while they’re still young is very important. When the puppy is mouthing on something inappropriate, redirect their attention to an appropriate chew toy or chew by placing it in the puppy’s mouth. This teaches them appropriate chewing behavior positively.

If the puppy becomes overly excited and mouthy, you can employ “time-outs,” where you either leave the room or ignore the puppy completely. If you do this, leave the puppy with something appropriate to chew. Puppies need to chew. It’s a normal part of their teething process. You can provide chew toys, carrots, apples, or ice cubes to help satisfy their urges to chew.

To discourage inappropriate chewing, make sure they don’t have access to items they’re not supposed to chew, spray off-limits items with Bitter Apple (a bad-tasting product available at most pet stores), and confine them to a crate, or other puppy promoted area, when they’re unsupervised.

Socializing Puppies

The most important age for a puppy’s socialization is between three weeks and three months, when they’re biologically primed to learn that new experiences are positive. It’s the most crucial, sensitive part of a puppy’s social life. Socialization does not involve just exposing puppies to new things, but actively working to ensure that every experience they have is a positive one. Whenever a puppy meets a new person, ensure it’s a positive and fun experience that involves lots of treats and praise. If your puppy seems fearful, go slowly.

Take any opportunity to expose your puppy to these situations with lots of treats and praise:

  • People

MEN – tall, bearded, variety of ethnicities, younger, older, men with canes/walkers, hats, etc.

WOMEN – tall, younger, variety of ethnicities, older, with purses, walkers, canes, crutches, etc.

CHILDREN – behaviorally inappropriate; keep puppies on ground

  • Behaviors

Laughing, talking loudly, walking, jogging, running, etc.

  • Items

Vacuums (off), mops, brooms, bikes, skate boards, tricycles, lawnmowers (off), etc.

  • Surfaces

Grass, concrete, stairs, carpet, tiles, hardwood, etc.

  • Health & Grooming

Nail clippers (not used), touch paws, touch ears, touch tail

Maintaining Your Fosters Health

Medical Concerns

Due to the unknown history of the animals in the shelter, the animals are susceptible to and are potential carriers of many infectious diseases, including intestinal parasites, bacterial infections, and viral infections.

While the shelter thoroughly checks and treats all animals upon arrival to the shelter, most illnesses have an incubation period, meaning they can begin showing signs after arrival to their foster home. Please observe animals carefully and note any changes in their behavior or habits. If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact the foster team immediately. Do not attempt to treat any illness or parasites on your own. Always contact fostertech@kyhumane.org so we can provide any medication needed.

  • Coughing or sneezing

  • Watery, goopy, red eyes

  • Lack of appetite or refusal to drink water

  • Ongoing vomiting

  • Ongoing diarrhea lasting more than 12 hours

  • Blood or parasites in stool

  • Lethargy

  • Sudden hair loss

  • Itchy dirty ears

Many of the above can either lead to or accompany dehydration, a serious condition marked by diarrhea, vomiting, and/or loss of appetite. To check for dehydration, pinch the animal’s skin gently. If the skin springs back slowly, taking more than one second, your animal is dehydrated and you should contact KHS immediately.

Contagious Illness

If you notice any of the below, please contact the foster team right away for assistance.

Fleas

All puppies over four weeks old are treated with Advantage Multi by KHS before they go to a foster home.

Foster puppies should NEVER be flea-dipped, flea-powdered, or flea-collared. These products are toxic, and can even cause adverse reactions in adults. If you notice fleas on your puppy, we can treat them with a mild flea preventative. You can also give them a bath with Dawn dish soap and keep their bedding clean to prevent and eliminate flea infestations.

Mange

Mange is caused by parasites that infect the skin of an animal. Some forms of mange are contagious to other animals and humans. If you notice excessive itching, hair loss, or sores on your animal, contact the foster team for treatment information.

Upper Respiratory Infection (URI)

URIs are common and caused by contagious viruses and bacteria. Look for signs of:

  • Sneezing and discharge from eyes/nose

  • Congested breathing

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy (lack of energy)

  • Dehydration

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is a deadly and contagious virus that attacks a dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Once parvovirus is present in an environment it can be difficult to remove. It’s transported through direct contact with contaminated feces. Signs of parvo include:

  • Lethargy

  • Dehydration

  • Loss of appetite

  • Abdominal pain and bloating

  • Fever

  • Low body temperature

  • Vomiting

  • Severe diarrhea with and without blood

If you notice signs of Parvovirus, you MUST contact the foster team IMMEDIATELY. Successful treatment of parvo is directly tied to how quickly treatment is started.

Tips for Reducing Risk

The spread of disease can be greatly reduced by practicing thorough, frequent hand washing hygiene before and after coming into contact with your foster animal. You should also clean and disinfect items frequently. Soaps and detergents are cleaning agents that suspend dirt and grease and break up organic matter, but do not necessarily disinfect. Disinfectants are chemical solutions that kill germs. Bleach is a common disinfectant. When bleach is diluted to a ratio of one part bleach to 32 parts water, it makes a great solution for disinfecting surfaces.

Some conditions that can spread to humans are:

  • Rabies

Rabies is transmitted through a virus carried in saliva. Signs of rabies include personality and behavioral changes, loss of coordination, difficulty swallowing, seizures, and death. Rabies is fatal, and there is no cure in humans or animals. All animals over 4 months of age at KHS are vaccinated for rabies upon intake.

  • Roundworms

Almost every puppy is born with roundworms contracted from its mother. These worms can be transmitted to people, especially children. Most infections in people are mild and display little to no symptoms, but cases can be more severe. The puppies feces should be removed and disposed of daily, and everyone who handles the puppy should wash their hands frequently, especially children who tend to put their hands in their mouths often.

  • Ringworm

Ringworm is not a worm at all, but a fungal infection on the skin. It can be difficult to diagnose in animals because the lesions can vary in their presentation. Some animals can carry the fungus in their coat without displaying symptoms. In people, the classic lesion is a raised, red ring.

Routine Care

KHS provides all routine veterinary care that your foster animal will need. Our veterinary staff is available at our Steedly location Monday-Friday from 8:30-3. Our veterinary technicians can also provide minor care, administer medications, and administer vaccinations on the weekends and during the evening. All routine care, including vaccines, foster pick ups, and foster returns, require appointments. Please remember that KHS cannot reimburse you for emergency or routine care provided to your foster animal by an outside veterinarian.

Vaccinations

All cats and dogs over one month old are vaccinated upon arrival to the shelter. Adults receive a round of booster shots two weeks after their initial vaccination while kittens under the age of four weeks receive booster shots every two weeks. Animals will also need to return for their spay and neuter surgery prior to going up for adoption around eight weeks, when they’re at least two pounds and eating primarily dry food. The foster team will contact you when your animal is due for their vaccinations. Vaccinations are only done at the main Steedly campus by appointment.

Returning Your Foster

Congratulations! You have saved a life!

When it’s time to return your foster animal for adoption, the foster team will contact you to arrange the return. Please email any photos you have of the animal. We also provide a link to a form so you can provide a description of the dog’s personality and behavior to share with potential adopters..

All foster parents are encouraged to promote the animal for adoption on social media and to friends, family, or other potential adopters. If someone is interested in adopting the animal, their information must be provided before or at drop off to ensure that they’re held for adoption. Adoption prices are as follows:

Under 5mth - $350 - $400

5mth – 7yr - $200 - $250

7yr+ - $100 - $150

When your foster animal is adopted, we will let you know! Otherwise, all animals up for adoption can be viewed and monitored on our website on the available animals page.

Adoption Ambassador Program

As an Adoption Ambassador, you will foster a shelter animal in need while they remain available for adoption. Any animal that goes to foster is eligible to remain there while up for adoption (with occasional exceptions).

This program is unique because we are not faced with physical limitations of the shelter walls and are therefore given endless opportunities to help pets in need. It helps us to have more space available for new animals entering the shelter, animals adopted out of foster homes are less likely to be returned, and the animal is able to live in a home environment and never has to come back to the shelter!

As an Adoption Ambassador, you are taking your foster commitment to the next level. These fosters will require a lot of participation on your part to help them find a forever home. If you enjoy taking your dogs out and about, would be comfortable speaking with interested adopters and are good at advertising on social media, these fosters will be great for you!

All foster parents are encouraged to promote the adoption of their foster pet to friends, family, and other potential adopters.

Emergencies

We have a relationship with several veterinary clinics to provide after-hours emergency care. It is important to utilize these resources only in life and death emergency situations as stated below. Many instances can wait until regular business hours; however we are here for you should something arise.

If you suspect that you have an emergency situation, please call (502) 515-3135 and leave a message. If you do not receive a return phone call within five minutes, please call again. We will instruct you to the proper veterinarian on call for the evening if we determine your foster needs to be seem immediately.

Please see this page for guidelines on what type of situations and illness require emergency care.

Additional Resources

Foster Facebook Group

Link to join will be sent after you are an active foster.