Maddie’s Fund® Foster Caregiver Market Research - 2017


Shelters can be a stressful place for dogs and cats, especially with long-term stays. Research shows that foster care provides dogs and cats with a respite from the shelter environment and improves their welfare.

Foster care allows the shelter, and ultimately the adopter, to gain additional insights into a pet’s personality in a more natural environment. It enables foster caregivers to take pictures and video, which can help prospective adopters envision the pet in their own home. Foster care also frees up space at a shelter, allowing staff to spend more time with the pets who remain in their care..

While there are many potential benefits of foster care, animal shelters and rescue organizations often state that difficulty recruiting new foster caregivers is the biggest barrier to creating and sustaining a foster program.

This Foster Caregiver Market Research was conducted to better understand:

  1. What the general public currently knew about foster care
  2. What motivated foster caregivers to foster a pet
  3. Identify new audiences of foster caregivers,

    a. Types of foster care programs that would appeal to them, and

    b. Determine inspiring messaging and communication methods to engage them.

Research Summary

Prospective foster caregivers, experienced foster caregivers and pet care professionals participated in Foster Caregiver Market Research conducted by Edge Research in 2017, sponsored by Maddie’s Fund®. The goal of the research was to determine target audiences for prospective foster caregivers and methods to engage them.

Primary takeaways from the research are two-fold:

  1. There is an opportunity for shelters to develop programs to attract, recruit and sustain pet foster caregivers, and
  2. The public is not yet aware of pet foster care and the role it plays in adoption. The study found that empowering foster caregivers to share their experiences with family, friends, neighbors and colleagues is likely the best way to gain new foster caregivers.

The survey, which included 1,079 prospective foster caregivers and 823 experienced foster caregivers, found that half of prospects were open to the idea of taking in a pet from a shelter or rescue organization, but 84% of them lacked awareness of the homeless pet population and are unsure how fostering fits into lifesaving.

Over a third (35%) of prospects heard about fostering through someone they knew who had fostered, while almost half (46%) of active foster caregivers heard of fostering through a shelter or rescue organization. Foster caregivers had positive feelings about fostering, with 64% feeling happy about it, while 23% of prospects felt stressed.

Prospects who were younger, lived alone and were aware of the homeless pet problem stood out as being interested in fostering. They showed the most interest in fostering adult dogs and senior pets. Both prospects and caregivers cited social media as being the best way to get their attention, followed by news stories about fostering.

Researchers concluded that shelters and rescue organizations need to encourage current fosters to talk about fostering and share their success stories since 73% of prospects would trust information on fostering from them. When recruiting new foster caregivers, organizations need to communicate key messages, such as explaining the role and function of fostering as well as support that is available to foster caregivers.

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