February 28, 2019

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

Organization: Maddie's Fund
Investigator(s): Anastasia Shabelansky
Grant Amount: n/a
Project Type: Basic Research
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

Part of a larger study: The Use, Policies and Perception of Cat and Dog Foster Care Programs Maddie's Fund® conducted an online survey to gain national baseline data regarding cat and dog foster care programs. This summary specifically focuses on foster caregiver policies of enrollment, support and appreciation. Overall, organizations with more stringent requirements to become a foster caregiver tended to have relatively fewer foster caregivers.


To explore different United States sheltering organizations' policies regarding fosters and investigate the impact of policies on the number of fosters


The survey was distributed to a convenience sample, via Maddie's Fund® email list, Adopt-a-Pet newsletter and Best Friends network partners. The policy-based study uses a subset of 1239 unique respondents. Notably, the sample is slightly over-weighted by organizations who took in less than 500 dogs and cats per year (39%).



  • On average each organization had 24 active fosters for dogs and 33 for cats. However, the data was not normally distributed; the majority of organizations had a median of five dog fosters and 10 cat fosters.


  • Organizations that required prospective foster caregivers to interview, either in-person or by phone, had significantly fewer foster caregivers.
  • Those requiring a background check had significantly fewer foster caregivers for cats, specifically; the difference was not significant for dogs.
  • Those with online orientation and foster caregiver trainings had significantly more foster caregivers.
  • Additionally, organizations that provided food, basic supplies, bed, toys, foster manuals, behavioral support, emergency phone number, marketing support and foster training opportunities tended to have significantly more foster caregivers.
  • Groups that acknowledged their foster volunteers on social media or in newsletters had significantly more foster caregivers. A similar trend was discovered for organizations that organized events and parties for their caregivers.
  • There were no significant differences in the number of foster volunteers between organizations that wrote personal letters or gave rewards or gifts to their volunteers and organizations that did not.
  • Almost all organizations (95%) reported to praise their volunteers verbally.


This study provides crucial scientific validation regarding shelters policies about fosters caregivers, demonstrating that organizational policies can have a significant effect on the number of volunteer caregivers. Organizations with stringent requirements to become a foster tended to have fewer fosters than organizations without them. Support and appreciation for fosters are another important factor to consider when revising foster program policies.