June 15, 2018

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: University of North Carolina
Investigator(s): Steven Rogelberg and Lea Williams
Grant Amount: None
Project Type: Phase 3
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

The University of North Carolina evaluated the implementation of foster teams at nine animal shelters. Overall, there was high excitement for but low engagement in the project. Participants reported that there many organizational barriers to implement the program. Smaller shelters were more successful in implementing foster teams than were larger shelters. Foster care managers reported a lighter workload and more support when teams were implemented.


To evaluate the implementation of foster teams at nine animal shelters. The goal of these foster teams was to reduce stress on foster caregivers, reduce the burden on the foster coordinator(s), and increase the number of animals being fostered and adopted.


Nine shelters were split into two groups for this one-year project. Groups were organized related to the location of the shelters-West Coast and Midwest/East Coast. Monthly check-ins were conducted with the foster coordinators at the shelters; two surveys were also administered to gauge foster team success halfway through and at the end of the initiative.


  • Shelters were very excited about the idea, but low engagement was observed due to high workload and struggles with organizational buy-in.
  • Smaller shelters were more likely to successfully implement foster teams.
  • Successful shelters were more likely to use teams for a certain type of pet, e.g., nursing dogs with puppies or ringworm kittens.


Based on the project, shelters should consider three options for implementing foster teams:

  • Ad-hoc teams for special needs animals: when a shelter has an animal with special needs, the coordinator could put out a call for volunteers to form a foster team to help the pet. These teams would not necessarily have to continue long-term, but could instead be formed on an ad-hoc basis when these special needs animals come through.
  • Partnering with companies: progressive companies (e.g., Workday) are great candidates for implementing foster teams. They help to build a team atmosphere within the organization while contributing to dog and cat lifesaving.
  • Resource team model: utilize teams of volunteers who support foster care and specialize in the same role. With resource teams in place, if a foster has an animal and needs help with transport, photography, a backup/weekend foster, etc., then the foster coordinator could connect him/her with someone on the resource team that can help.