Foster pet outreach: Looking to grow

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jake brian

To find out a dog’s true personality, watch the animal in an environment that doesn’t involve cages or kennels.

That’s the idea behind the not for profit Foster Pet Outreach, a local organization that places dogs and cats into foster care as they wait to find their “forever home.”

“There really is no better way to find out how a dog or cat will act around kids or other pets than to let them interact with each other. That helps the potential adoptive family. But it also helps the pets to thrive,” said Laurie Bushell, president of the organization founded nearly 24 years ago to help Peoria-area pets.

Foster Pet Outreach, or FPO, was founded in 1990 by three women who volunteered at area animal shelters. It was while doing so they began to realize that many of the animals did not interact well in that kind of environment and thus often went overlooked by families coming in with adoption on their minds.

“They started the foster home program and soon saw that the pets, particularly dogs, began to show their true personalities. That helped them find out such things as whether a dog gets along with cats or does well around children. It helped the animal get rehabilitated and ready for adoption,” Bushell said.

“We are a no-kill organization, of course, and some pets may never get adopted and live outside of foster care. But most will and we consider every adoption a big success.”

FPO works with area shelters to take in pets and also will go well beyond central Illinois when called. For example, it works often with a shelter in Missouri and some in Chicagoland. It also does owner-relinquish cases when owners realize they cannot care for a pet but don’t want to send it to a shelter.

Often the dogs or cats end up being brothers and/or sisters and they may get adopted together.

When people apply to adopt an animal, “we usually tell them to please find out as much as they possibly can about the pet before they take them. It can be heartbreaking to have to take back a pet we thought was in its forever home,” she said.

Pets available for adoption can be viewed on FPO’s website,, on the organization’s Facebook page or on Pinterest. On the website, too, are applications to adopt or to be a pet foster parent.

Bushell said FPO is always looking for foster parents and that the more it has, the more pets it can take in. “We could have anywhere from two to 20 pets in foster care at any one time, but our foster families reach their limits and can’t take more or they become what we call ‘foster failures,’” she said.

Foster failures doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It isn’t that the pet became ill or escaped or got sent to doggies jail. It means, Bushell said, “that the foster family realizes it has the one pet it has been looking for and adopts it themselves. We have all been a foster failure and freely admit it.”

One thing to remember, Bushell said, is that FPO does not have a building. That means no mortgage or maintenance costs.

Any funds it raises through various events during a year go to the animals. The chief cost is veterinary care, from basic care to heartworm treatments, which are costly and result in the dogs being kept more or less quarantined for up to six weeks during treatment.

As it is, Foster Pet Outreach will hold a pet a mandatory 10 days before allowing an adoption so it can learn about the animal, including determining whether it is healthy. “That is our own guideline. We have learned through the years that learning as much as we can ourselves helps reduce the number of returns,” Bushell said.

The number of foster parents as well as the number of pets in foster care at FPO has grown substantially since the organization began getting involved in Facebook. “We will put out a notice on Facebook that we need foster families and we’ll get a bunch of applications right away,” she said. “We tripled our foster care base as well as the number of adoptions in the past year,” she said.

While that is good for the pets, it means more costs to be covered and thus, the need to raise funds.

Foster Pet Outreach has two or three events each year and one of the largest is its annual Easter Egg Hunt, where dogs are allowed to hunt for goodies. Sponsored by Pet Pantry, it is scheduled for April 26 at Oakwood Dog Park in Morton.

Other events will be announced as they are scheduled, Bushell said.

If interested in being a foster parent or in volunteering for the organization, go to its website and apply.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).