Permits for Rescuers
This is a proposal for local jurisdictions to issue permits enabling Rescue foster people to have more animals than would ordinarily be allowed by their zoning. This would save animal lives, encourage animal lovers to volunteer to foster, and lighten the numbers housed at the shelters. It would be an "Everybody Wins !" situation.
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Note : for the rest of this article I will talk about "dogs", but this would also applay to any species for which local zoning laws limit the number of animals on the property, per parcel or per acre. For dogs and cats the limit is usually stated per real estate unit or per house. For outdoor livestock, it's usually per acre. In addition to zoning there are the implied limitations of not creating a nuisance for one's neighbors.
One of the most serious difficulties that Rescue programs encounter is recruiting foster homes. A foster home is one that will keep a rescued animal in a manner similar to that in which they keep their own animals, provide appropriate care and try to provide some experiences or training that will make the animal more suited for eventual adoption into a permanent home. Fostering is normally intended to be relatively short term, though for very elderly or terminally ill animals it might become what I call "terminal fostering" or "hospice fostering". The intention is that the animal will be adopted by a permanent home that is someone different from the foster home.
There are two reasons why a dog loving person may be reluctant or unable to foster.
My proposal , a proposal that would make it easier for dog loving people to become foster homes, is quite simple. The local jurisdiction , city or county, could add to its zoning laws or other relevant laws some kind of permit or license for a foster home to have one or more extra animals above the limit otherwise imposed.
Probably the initial effort in this direction would be to allow just one extra animal and to give permits only to foster homes that are part of an already existing 501c3 non-profit Rescue organization. That would give the safeguard that the parent Rescue would have already some knowlege of the abilities of the applicant and would be providing some degree of supervision or direction. Almost all Rescues have some kind of agreement that foster homes sign or some set of guidelines for fostering. Almost all Rescues have members who are experienced in fostering and who are available to counsel those who lack such experience.
The other concern is the rights of neighbors to not have annoyances increased by excessive numbers of animals next door , and there are various ways to address this.. Perhaps there would be a preceding process of notification of contiguous neighbors or perhaps all neighbors within a specificed distance of the foster home. Such neighbors would be notified and given a certain period of time (a week or two ?) in which to make objections, such objections to be based on specific instances of the proposed foster home having created nuisances with the animals already present..
Perhaps the proposed foster home might also be required to include a reference from their veterinarian. (Certainly it's imperative that they have an on-going relationship with a vet or clinic and that they be able to provide at home care as directed.) Perhaps they might be required to include letters of support from neighbors (an alternative to the notification and objection process). Probably they should be required to include a letter from the 501c3 Rescue under whose ageis they will be fostering..
Foster home permits could be issued on a time limited basis, eg initially for 2 years, with review at the end of that initial period and renewal (probably for longer period) if there have been no problems. Or perhaps these permits would simply be revokable in the event of problems occurring and proven (not mere complaints, but actual evidence, perhaps a hearing.)
If this pilot program proved to be sucessful, perhaps an expanded permit might be given to those who have proven themselves under the "one extra" program, allowing "two extra" or whatever seems appropriate. What is appropriate can depend on whether the home is rural without immediately close neighbors or whether it's urban with very close neighbors. ( For example, I myself am in a rural row-crop area, with nearest neighbor about 1/3 mile away. It's very easy for me to keep my dogs from annoying anyone.)
Many public shelters and many SPCA or Humane shelters have fostering programs. Sometimes these are short term care for puppies or kittens too immature to be in shelter conditions. Sometimes it's for an animal who needs extra care while recovering from an injury or illenss. Sometimes it might be for an animal whose future is pending an investigation or hearing on charges of Hoarding or Neglect or Cruelty. (Right this moment, August 2017 , I am fostering for the county a dog who is recovering from life-threatening starvation and another medical condition and whose future is pending a hearing..)
I don't know how city and county Animal Services shelters handle the issue of whether the foster home might be having an "extra" animal, ie be above zoning limit, because of fostering for the shelter. Some may have a formal license or permit, but probably many just do it informally, "turning a blind eye" to that "extra" number. It certainly makes sense that there can be no penalty on someone who is performing a meritous action that the authorities have asked her/him to do.
Usually (for foster animals in good health, etc) the foster home will bring the animal to special adoption events at which pets are seen by potential adopters. Many shelters have a partnership with local pet supply stores, especially PetCo and PetsMart, to do regularly scheduled adoption events. Or events may be held at public parks These events are also one more way to educate the public about responsible ownership and about Spay/Neuter.
So what I am proposing is really not something radically new. It's expanding something that already works.
There are so many "winners" when being a foster home receives some legal blessing.