A Shelter Beyond Our Walls: How Fostering Really Does Save Lives

Story by Monica Dangler, Director of Pima Animal Care Center
Those who know me know that I’m all about data, and I’m thrilled to report that Pima Animal Care Center’s 2023 data again reflected Pima County residents’ commitment to keeping Pima County a life-saving community. Perhaps the most tangible reflection of that commitment was in the number of pets who benefitted from a stay in a foster home. In 2023, nearly 7,000 animals went to foster care, representing a 12% increase over the year before, a monumental achievement that allowed us to remain a life-saving shelter despite continued nationwide shelter overpopulation due to economic factors, a lack of access to veterinary care and pet-inclusive housing, and a steady influx of stray pets throughout the year.

It is difficult to over-emphasize the critical role that fosters play in everyday life here at PACC. On the broadest scale, having pets in foster homes means that there are more kennels available here at the shelter. It’s been repeated perhaps to the point of cliché, but it’s true; by fostering a pet, you are helping save the life of that pet and the pet(s) who will fill that kennel next by creating that space for incoming pets. Thanks to community members who cared for PACC pets as their own in 2023, thousands more pets were able to come through the shelter and get the help they needed.

Of course, on an individual level, fostering can be life-altering for these pets. Consider the story of Bane, a young dog who had struggled with anxiety and fear during a long stay at the shelter. After seven months of waiting, he lucked into a foster home, where he has truly blossomed into the goofy, friendly pup we always knew he could be. If the gifts of seeing a pet’s stress level decrease and their true personality come out weren’t enough, fosters also provide the opportunity for us at the shelter to learn more about the pet and their behaviors in a home, helping us to market them and find the best possible home for them. For Bane, getting a chance to leave the overcrowded and overwhelming shelter has permanently changed his life.

Bane is one of many pets who benefitted from a long-term foster in 2023, but PACC has also expanded our short-term foster programming in recent years, giving a wider range of pets and people the opportunity to experience the joys and benefits of fostering. PACC offers short-term foster opportunities in our “Day Trips” and “Pawjama Parties” every day we’re open, and we saw a massive uptick in participation in these programs in 2023, particularly with students at the University of Arizona. These programs are a lot of fun for both people and pups, and they help find the pets homes, too. In fact, recent research from Maddie’s Fund shows that dogs that get to take day trips away from the shelter are five times more likely to be adopted, and dogs who get a sleepover-style break from the shelter, even for just one night, are fourteen times more likely to be adopted. Talk about compelling data!

No matter whether you take a dog for a night or for as long as it takes to find them a home, fosters help PACC and other rescues and shelters in Pima County continue to expand our shelter beyond our walls, building and growing a community who takes seriously its commitment to animal welfare. Fostering is free, and any necessary medical care is covered by our clinic free of cost. Depending on what we have on hand, PACC can also provide supplies like food and other necessary items to help make it possible. If you’re ready to share your heart and home with a PACC pet, we’d love to see you at the shelter any time we’re open.



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