Background, past developments and successes
In the 1980s a Channel 4 television series called ‘Years Ahead’ featured the benefits of pets for older people…to give them an interest, companionship and in the case of dogs, to encourage them to take exercise. This programme received a huge response in letters from elderly people who were worried about what would happen to their pets if they were unable to care for them because of their own illness. They were worried about being unable to afford commercial boarding fees, or having to give up their pet.
One of our founding members discovered that there was apparently no alternative care service available for pets of elderly owners so, along with a vet and a health specialist, planned a pet fostering service, to be provided by volunteers in their own homes, to give pets temporary care while their owners were unable to do so.
Following a great deal of work, a network of health and social work contacts was established, and volunteer fosterers were recruited to help support elderly owners and their pets. Pet Fostering Service Scotland was officially established in 1985 as a registered Scottish charity with a Board of trustees.
As PFSS was soon very much in demand throughout all Scotland, Area Organisers were recruited to manage the fostering requests and the fosterers in their area.
PFSS has adapted over the years to support a wide range of emergency situations, helping pet owners of all age groups who are temporarily homeless, or in respite care, or in hospital or have to leave home in an emergency situation without being able to make alternative arrangements for their pets.
The service is still provided solely by volunteers and priority is still given to pets of elderly owners; all requests for fostering are given sympathetic consideration and treated on their own merits.
We care for an average of 200 pets per year. The length of stay can vary from a weekend to a year – depending on the reason for the fostering being required.
The majority of our fostering involves cats, dogs and caged birds but, there have been offers from volunteers to care for more exotic pets. Approximately 75% of our foster pets are dogs; 20% are cats; with 5% falling under the rather broad ‘other’ category, which covers small furries, birds, fish, and we have had one or two reptiles.
Due to the current climate there is an even greater demand for our service. We are a very low income charity and do not charge pet owners for our service. All we ask is that owners provide food for their pet and try to cover veterinary bills while their pets are in our care.
At the same time there is an ever increasing need to fundraise to cover our running costs which are largely travel costs for transporting animals and phone bills. We must also maintain our ‘Hardship Fund’ specifically kept for pets in need of emergency veterinary attention.
We rely on fundraising by volunteers, donations from people who use our service, and the generosity of the many people who work voluntarily for PFSS and make minimal claims for out-of-pocket expenses. Applications to grant-giving trusts are sometimes successful but are becoming more difficult to source.
Aims and objectives of Pet Fostering Service Scotland
Pet Fostering Service Scotland is aware of the importance of companion animals in people’s lives. Our core aims are to support pet owners who are in an emergency by providing compassionate care for their pets ( who do not understand their apparent abandonment by their owner). We aim to limit stress and anxiety to both pet and owner. If possible we will keep in touch with owners and let them know how their pet is doing.
Our volunteer base always needs more recruits to help with fostering, fundraising, publicity and administration. Please follow these volunteering opportunities on our website and get in touch by letter, email or phone. Pet Fostering Service Scotland will warmly welcome your support.