Fostering With OBX SPCA
A Home For The Howlidays
For those that call the Outer Banks home, the holiday season is not only a time for celebration but a time for reflection and giving back to the community. And at the Outer Banks SPCA on Roanoke Island, those in need include the area’s four-legged residents in search of foster families with whom they can spend the holidays. Fostering with OBX SPCA is such a rewarding experience!
“We’re always in need of foster homes for both dogs and cats,” says Chrissea Rothrock, Animal Control Supervisor and Interim Director at OBX SPCA.
The open-admission shelter houses some 2,000 animals over the course of each year, and because they do not turn away any dogs or cats, including those that may be sick, injured, or behaviorally challenged, the kennels are often full of animals seeking homes.
“We would much rather our animals be out in a foster home than in a shelter,” says Rothrock, who believes that all dogs and cats can benefit from fostering, which gives them a break from the shelter environment and a chance to interact closely with an individual or a family.
“It’s a great experience to see these animals go out,” she says. “We will help [the foster] find the animal that suits them and will work best in their home. If the foster works with them, it’s awesome to see them come back and see how their personality has changed.”
A normal foster care stay ranges from two weeks to two months depending on the animal’s needs – although short-term fostering is also an option – and foster care volunteers are given everything they need for the animal’s stay, including food, supplies, and any medicines or items required for additional care.
In return, the volunteer provides love, exercise, socialization, and adoption exposure, and in many cases, fostering can give the shelter invaluable information about the dog or cat that could aid in the animal’s future adoption.
“Some of these dogs we get as strays and we don’t know a thing about them,” says Rothrock, noting that each dog is assessed by a behaviorist upon arrival, but some personality traits and aspects of training don’t come out until the animal is in a home. “It gives us feedback so that if a potential adopter comes in, we can tell them more about the dogs.”
Along with those in need of affection and socialization, there are animals that require medical care, kittens and puppies under two months old that must be bottle-fed, nursing mothers, and animals that could benefit from additional training before going home with a forever family.
During the spring, found puppies and kittens are often brought into the shelter, and during the summer with the presence of visitors, more stray dogs and cats are discovered near vacation rental homes.
“We need fosters all the time,” says Rothrock.
Some of the shelter’s existing volunteers continuously foster animals without ever adopting – like one who will take a litter of young kittens for a few weeks and then bring them back when they are old enough to be adopted. But, Rothrock also admits, “A lot of the times we have ‘foster failures’, which we love too. We’re hoping sometimes these folks will take a dog and fall in love with them.”
If fostering with OBX SPCA cannot be done for an extended period, animals can be picked up for short foster field trips (like a day at the beach or a hike) or Foster Fridays, in which the volunteer takes home a dog or cat just for the weekend.
Experienced volunteers enjoy the Sidekicks Program, an enrichment and intervention initiative for hard-to-adopt dogs designed to enhance their adoptability. Sidekicks make a commitment to a specific animal to work with them weekly on basic training, socialization, and more.
“They basically get these dogs out and get them socialized,” says Rothrock, recalling one volunteer who takes his assigned dog to his house three days a week to play in the backyard. “They work with our dogs that might have some behavior problems or need some work on their training.”
No matter the time of year, volunteers are always needed at the shelter to help with dog walking, bathing, cleaning, and administrative duties. Many volunteers come in to walk dogs, but volunteering can include anything from interacting with the animals to spraying down the kennels and washing dishes to prepare for adopters that come in each day. Our volunteers either live in the area, or they come from out of town.
“It’s important for the animals and it’s important for the staff,” says Rothrock. “The more volunteers we have, the quicker we can get done cleaning and the quicker we can interact with our animals.”
After a decade with the shelter, having moved up from an animal control officer to her current position, Rothrock’s motivation remains the same. She says, “I’m here to save animals.”
And she doesn’t just mean finding them homes.
During Hurricane Dorian, Rothrock coordinated the evacuation of all dogs and cats in the shelter with the help of benevolent organizations and individuals up and down the East Coast – including the Best Friends animal society and a small group from Asheville who drove two vans from western North Carolina to the Outer Banks to Delaware to transport animals to safety.
The success of the OBX SPCA, she believes, is because of the volunteers and the devoted team in Manteo.
“Our team that is here right now is probably the best team that I have ever worked with,” she says. “We’re all compassionate. We’re here for the animals that are not taken care of on the streets or who can no longer be with somebody.” ♦
If you are thinking about fostering with OBX SPCA, give it a try! You can foster for a short time if need be or as long as it takes for a furry friend to become adopted! Give them a call at (252) 475-5620
Born between the ocean and sound on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Alexi Holian can’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing. Along with contributing to island publications like My Outer Banks Home, The Outer Banks Wedding Guide, and Outer Banks This Week, she has covered everything from Miami food festivals to St. Barth sailing for travel and hospitality brands around the world.