How fostering animals can help save lives and what you need to know about it

If you want to adopt an animal, but you’re not sure if you’re up to the task of being someone’s forever home, consider fostering.

Heidi Yeung |

Latest Articles

Hong Kong secondary school placement results released

Kellyanne Conway’s teen daughter posts anti-Trump and pro-Black Lives Matter TikTok videos

TikTok to leave Hong Kong following national security law

When you foster a cat or a dog, you care for them in your home like you would with any animal – but it’s not forever.

If you’ve ever asked your parents for a pet but they’ve always said no, there may be a way to “test run” being responsible for a cat or dog that may change their mind. Best of all, you’ll also be giving animals in Hong Kong a second chance at life!

Our city has a strong, but often ignored, adopting and fostering programme, and the latter is a great way to help cats and dogs. It can be as flexible as you need it to be, because you’re not obliged to adopt that animal.

However, if you can afford in money and time to have a permanent pet, you should definitely adopt, and not shop for, an animal.

Did you know that 2,263 cats and dogs were euthanised in Hong Kong in 2016 because they couldn’t find a home? When you consider that the Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) also euthanise rabbits, hamsters, pigs, cattle, and birds, the overall number of animals that are killed is much higher. According to the SPCA, around 10,000 animals are euthanised every year in Hong Kong, and one in every three dogs euthanised were surrendered by its owner.

Meanwhile, pet stores in Hong Kong still sell more than 600 puppies every month – that’s 7,200 puppies every year. That’s crazy when, in 2016, there were 3,265 dogs – and 1,057 cats – waiting for homes at AFCD centres.

If more people fostered animals, not only are these animals saved from euthanasia, you also get to have a cute furry friend to come home to; and your mum and dad may even eventually realise how nice it is to have a pet at home. Tell them science has proven that petting a dog or cat helps lower stress.

A foster family is a temporary home for animals awaiting adoption, not a permanent one, Sheila McClelland, the founder of Lifelong Animal Protection (LAP) explained. And once the animal you’re fostering finds a home, a new animal is assigned to you to foster. So you actually help save more animals in the long run.

Fostering an animal can be just as big a responsibility as adopting them forever is.
Photos: SCMP

“We don’t like [foster families to foster an animal] for less than two weeks, because that’s disruptive for the cats or dogs, but it depends on each individual case.”

One of the advantages of fostering is its flexibility. So, if you’re interested in caring for an animal but you know you need zero distractions during exam periods, you can work around that. Or, if your family is going on holiday, as long as you tell the centre ahead of time, you can work around that, too.

When you foster one animal, you’re saving two lives: the life of the animal you’re fostering, and the life of the animal who can take his/her place at the centre. Foster families can also help socialise an animal so that he/she is more prepared for adoption, which increases that animal’s chance of finding a forever home.

However, the temporary nature of fostering doesn’t mean there are fewer responsibilities than adopting. You have to be ready to spend time with any animal you foster, and you have to be patient. Foster cats and dogs often need a little time to settle down in a new place, and you can’t force them to be cuddly right away.

Their health and well-being are your responsibility, and it’s not one that anyone should take lightly. This is no easy task – but the rewards and impact you can have on the state of animal welfare in Hong Kong is well worth it.

Animal Welfare Organisations in Hong Kong you can foster from or volunteer at:

Edited by Ginny Wong