The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia invites people to open up their homes this holiday season to a homeless dog or cat.
The nonprofit was selected to participate in the Foster Express Challenge, alongside 100 other animal shelters across the U.S.
The challenge, also called the Foster Sleepover Program, encourages shelters to have 25 animals put into short-term foster homes for the holidays.
Julie Edwards, executive director of the humane society, said the national organization, Maddie’s Fund, runs the program.
Since starting the challenge in late November, Kathleen Garrand, the humane society's foster coordinator, said 30 dogs have gone out to temporary homes.
The last day to sign up to foster a cat or dog over Christmas is before 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18. The challenge ends on Jan. 10.
Edwards said the program gives cats and dogs the opportunity to briefly leave their shelter environment and enjoy life in a home.
“Even at the best shelters, no matter how many volunteers you have, the reality is that they’re (cats and dogs) still living around 20 hours a day in a kennel,” Edwards said. “It’s just a stress reliever for animals.”
Oftentimes staying temporarily in a person’s home helps animals sleep peacefully, which positively affects their behavior.
“Animals in a shelter situation rarely get quality sleep,” she said. “There’s barking, people coming in and out. Think about when you don’t get good sleep how cranky you are. It’s a similar thing.”
Cindy Askounis, who fostered a dog over Thanksgiving, said the canine’s personality changed once she brought him into her home.
“It took Danny (the dog) a little time, but he became more relaxed and seemed to decompress a little bit,” she said.
In many cases, Edwards said fostering a dog or cat speeds up their adoption process.
Before people bring their foster animals back to the shelter, they’re asked to fill out a “report card” for the dog or cat. They answer questions about the animal’s temperament around other pets and children, as well as any good or bad behaviors.
These report cards give potential adopters a well-rounded view of the animal’s personality.
Posting about a foster animal on social media can also help with the adoption process.
Askounis said she put up a video on Facebook of Danny playing with her two other dogs. Someone saw the video and decided to adopt the dog.
“The day I returned Danny, I got to meet them and tell them about my experience,” she said. The humane society provides free food, toys, a crate and other necessary equipment to foster an animal. People can choose to watch over a cat or dog for a day, week or whatever fits best into their schedule.
“It’s easier than you think,” Askounis said. “The humane society does a good job of matching the animal to your family’s situation. They provide absolutely everything and it’s a lot of fun.”
Those interested in fostering a dog or cat over the holidays can email Garrand at KGarrand@HSNEGA.org.