High school students in the Stratford-Perth area are being invited to complete their community service hours this summer by fostering a cat or small animal through the Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo and Stratford-Perth foster program.
In addition to finding foster homes for the animals, the new program’s goal is to help educate students about animal welfare while providing interactions that promote a healthy mental wellbeing.
“By opening it up to students were hoping to get more community engagement, help more animals find a temporary, loving home while they’re looking for their forever home, expand the capacity of the number of animals we are able to care for, but also to give students the opportunity to spend their volunteer hours and give them some animal interaction, which can be very beneficial,” said Humane Society spokesperson Anya Barradas.
Anyone 14 years in age and up living in the area can apply to foster an animal; anyone older than 18 would go into the adult category.
“For the student foster program we wanted to make it manageable for students and for the parents who would need to co-sign. We are giving them the option to foster either a cat or a small animal. All of these animals will be medically cleared by our veterinary team and are just looking for their forever home – somebody to look after them, take care of them, feed them, and give them some interaction until they are able to find their forever home.”
Barradas said this is just the start of a pilot program that could change or be extended. For now, they are starting out with cats and small animals to see how it goes.
“There is so much that the high school students can take from this. Rather than just telling your parents why they should get you a pet, high school students will be able to demonstrate to their parents how responsible they can be. This is a good way to trial having a pet and see if they fit into their life,” she noted.
“This will give them an opportunity to take their mind off what’s happening in the world today and just be able to focus on interacting with an animal, and also teach them about giving back to their community. By fostering an animal, they will help us increase the number of animals that were able to take into our shelter.
“Part of the reason we decided to pilot this program out of Stratford-Perth was because that is where we have the greatest need for foster volunteers – we don’t have enough at this time and if were not able to place an animal into foster care, which is our hope for every animal. They just stay in our shelters; they’re clean but they’re not the same as having an animal in someone’s home,” Barradas added.
The program will offset declines in the number of staff and volunteers that have occurred due to the pandemic, which has put a strain on those that have been working through the lockdowns, she said, noting that’s another reason to find more foster homes.
“Right now we’re in kitten season – from as soon as the weather starts to warm up until middle of fall is kitten season – and there are a lot of kittens coming in. We have multiple litters of kittens coming in every day. These are typically placed with our adult volunteers who have more experience with bottle feeding, but there are still adult cats that are healthy that come in on a regular basis, that are in need of a foster home. Kittens are our fast movers – unfortunately it makes it a little bit harder to adopt out the adult cats. They’re perfectly healthy it just might be taking a little longer to find their forever home, so were hoping that’s where the students can step in and help us look after those animals as we find their forever home.”