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 PFSS 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 both 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 has grown over the years and we see an ever increasing demand for fostering.
The PFSS aim is to provide foster care for the pets of those who are unable due to illness, homelessness or domestic abuse. 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.
Today the demand for our service continues to grow, and while we do not charge owners for fostering their pet, we do ask that they pay or provide pet food and try to cover veterinary costs while the pet is in our care.
Fundraising is therefore key to our ability to continue this service, and is required to cover all our costs from a small core of staff, to travel and running costs, including our 'Hardship Fund' which pays when the owner is unable to do so, everything from veterinary costs to dog leads.
We therefore rely totally on fundraising; by volunteers, donations from people who use our service, the generosity of the many people who work voluntarily for PFSS (and make minimal claims for out-of-pocket expenses) and also the numerous trust funds that support a wide range of aspects of our work.
The 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 aim is 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.
- PFSS volunteers throughout Scotland provide foster care for many pets, sometimes for one week, sometimes for six months, but always by arrangement.
- Currently PFSS has around 300 volunteers, a small staff team and an active Board of Directors
- We foster over 200 pets every year-with 75% being dogs, 24% cats and 1% small furries or birds. We have even fostered Koi fish and fancy rats on occasion.
- The most common need for our service still comes from clients in poor health and in respite care, but we accomodate pets from those who are suddenly homeless or have suffered domestic abuse.