Dogs charity seeks foster carers to look after animals as they await a permanent home
Could you be a foster carer for a dog?
Dogs Trust's 'Home from Home' fostering programme was developed to give dog lovers, who are not in a position to adopt on a permanent basis, the opportunity to own a dog on a temporary basis.
It also helps the dogs experience life in a home environment.
Now, Dogs Trust in Northern Ireland is appealing for more foster carers to help their canine residents by giving them a temporary home while they wait for a permanent one.
The rehoming centre in Ballymena currently has 54 foster carers participating in the 'Home From Home' fostering programme, however they are now in a position to expand this network thanks to support from vets in the Belfast area.
In the last year, more than 75% of dogs placed into the foster programme at Dogs Trust have gone on to find permanent homes as a result of their time in foster care.
Dot and her husband Martin are Belfast-based foster carers for Dogs Trust Ballymena who have been fostering dogs since the Home From Home programme launched in 2016.
Dot said: "Although my husband and I were never bothered about having to journey to Ballymena for the sake of a dog in our care, it will be so much handier having a vet practice closer to our home which will save us much more time.
"After our two beloved dogs sadly passed away, we had no intention of getting another pet as it would have felt like a replacement. However, when we realised there were dogs out there with no homes to call their own, our perception changed and we began to understand that dogs need us as much as we care for them.
"Fostering was the ideal solution for us because we could help lots of dogs on their road to forever homes and I'm proud to say that all 10 dogs we have looked after on the Home From Home programme are now in permanent homes. Friends always ask us whether it is difficult to look after a dog and then have to give them up; as much as we get very attached to them, we don't feel sad because each dog is going on to fulfil their potential as a family pet."
Stephanie Scott, Home From Home fostering coordinator at Dogs Trust in Ballymena, said: "We have a few devoted foster carers in Belfast at the moment who go above and beyond for our dogs, although in the past it hasn't always been very practical for them as they would need to regularly travel between Ballymena and Belfast for vet check-ups. However, with veterinary support now available closer to Belfast, the fostering programme is much more accessible to people in the area."
Dot and Martin's most recent foster dog was Poppy, a Shih-Tzu who spent most of her life in a home environment and was very nervous about leaving it, so was immediately placed in a foster home. Poppy has since found a permanent home.
All foster families receive full support and advice. Fostering stays range from as little as one week up to nine months, and for certain dogs, foster carers don't need a lot of previous canine experience.
Dogs Trust are also on the lookout for people who do have a little bit more experience too, to help care for expectant or new mums and their pups, as well as providing extra TLC to dogs with medical needs.
To find out more contact Stephanie Scott on 07443 981710 or visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/our-centres/ballymena