Find out how you can become a temporary foster parent to a pet in need. Download the Foster Parent Application.


Why is Pet Fostering Important?

Did you know that one of the primary reasons Helen Woodward Animal Center placed over 3,200 orphan animals into loving forever homes last year is due to the dedication of our incredible Foster Families?  By fostering animals for a short but necessary period of time, these families provide more room at the Center, allowing our adoptions department to help other shelters by taking in more animals. We have a limited amount of kennel space, so when foster families take in pets, they are also helping other orphan pets by opening up a kennel. There are many animals in need, so the more animals we can take in the better!   Is there a safe space in your heart and home for an angel? 

What is a foster parent?

A foster parent is an animal lover who generously volunteers to take in a homeless pet (or several!) with a specific need for a short period of time.

Why would an orphan animal require fostering?

Animals are fostered for a variety of reasons. Some are too young for adoption, some need a home in which to recover after a medical procedure, some are pregnant or nursing, and some need more socialization. Foster families provide the love and stability these pets need to be happy and healthy, both mentally and physically. When an orphan animal has been in a foster home, he or she is more confident and social; therefore the pet transitions into its new home with greater ease!

How long will I be fostering a pet?

Generally, the foster time period ranges from 2-4 weeks. The time period can vary, however, depending on the needs of each pet.

What sort of animals will I be fostering?

Orphaned puppies and kittens:

We send orphaned puppies and kittens to foster homes when they are under-vaccinated and/or too young to be spayed or neutered. Your home is where they will receive the love and socialization that is so important in these early months. They are usually sent out in pairs or groups of three because it is very important for these little ones to have the company of their siblings.

Pregnant moms/Moms with babies:

Occasionally we get dogs and cats that are pregnant. A shelter environment is stressful for these expectant moms so it is very important for them to have a peaceful place to relax, be comfortable and have their babies. Typically, this is an easy foster. The babies are nursing for the first 3-4 weeks. Dogs need a quiet place and someone to take them out throughout the day. Cats simply need a quiet and safe place to nurse and raise their babies.

Adult dogs or cats in need of socialization:

Some adult dogs and cats do not do well in a shelter environment. They might be scared or lack certain social skills. A couple of weeks in a loving foster home helps pets build self-esteem and gives them the confidence they need to find a good home during their stay at the Center. 

Dogs or cats being treated for medical reasons:

When we have dogs or cats that are being treated medically and are not ready to go up for adoption yet, they need a caring foster home to help them recuperate. When they are fully recovered, they will be ready to return to Helen Woodward Animal Center and find their forever families.

What is provided to pet foster parents? 

Helen Woodward Animal Center will provide you with all the supplies necessary including food, bowls, toys, crate, etc. as well as the training on how to care for your new foster pets.

Additionally, any medical needs, checkups or health issues will be taken care of through Helen Woodward Animal Center’s full time veterinarian and medical staff. 

Getting started:

If you have any questions regarding our foster care program or would like more information, please contact the Foster Program Coordinator at: 858-756-4117 ext. 375 or email

To apply to become a Helen Woodward Animal Center foster, submit our on-line application.

You may also download the application and return it to the Center in person, fax it to: 858-756-0605, or mail it to the address below.

Helen Woodward Animal Center 
Attention: Foster Department 
PO Box 64 
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067