CLEVELAND — The stories are troubling, occurring all over Northeast Ohio and beyond: Our kennels and shelters are facing a crisis. There are too many stray, abandoned or surrendered animals to take in.
Yes, adoption is the ultimate goal, but even if your family pet quota is already met, you can still help in a critical and very rewarding way.
Just ask two volunteers who are the backbone of rescue group Muttley Crue.
"We are a foster-based rescue. We take in all kinds of dogs, owner surrenders, pull from City Dogs. We help other rural shelters out, we get them from out of state. We take them into our homes, we vet them and find them great home," said Jenny who is in charge of adoptions for Muttley Crue.
We met during puppy playgroup time at Jenny's home. Pups she is fostering along with Muttley Crue Executive Director Nikki, had an hour of socialization. There was plenty of tail wagging to tug at the heart, especially when you hear stories of where these dogs came from, and their fate had Muttley Crue not stepped in.
Two small, but energetic pups named "Walker" and "Texas Ranger" were recently picked up from a rural shelter in Southern Ohio. "Walker and Texas Ranger, if we didn't have a foster home for them, they would have been euthanized at the shelter. So that's the reality that people don't understand," Nikki said.
And, what rescues can't understand right now, is why so many kennels are "maxed out." There's no single reason behind why so many animals are showing up as strays, abandoned or surrendered. But it has organizations like Muttley Crue, and other foster-based programs, working overtime to find more homes with space.
Animals in foster homes have the chance for more individualized attention.
And time to decompress. This process -- away from a shelter -- allows that animal's true personality, its likes and dislikes, to come through.
"Our routine becomes their routine, and because we have other dogs, too, it kind of transitions them, too," Jenny said.
Shelter Animals Count is an organization that collects data on the pet population. It reports that if just 2% of our 85 million pet-owning households would commit to foster a pet a year, preventable euthanasia would be eliminated. Those are adoptable animals put down simply because they haven't found homes. And it amounts to saving roughly 800,000 lives a year.
"Without people's homes, these dogs don't have a chance," Nikki said. "The volunteers carefully assess each dog that comes in, knowing what foster homes will make the best fit and which would be a pass."
Muttley Crue volunteers have fostered hundreds of dogs throughout the years. Yes, they admit saying goodbye when an animal is adopted is hard. But they insist it's the greatest gift you can give an animal in need.
"That's the number one reason why people say they can't foster. Honestly, once you let that first one go, it's like, 'Oh my gosh, this is really fun. Um, I think I can probably do it again,'" Nikki said.
That's also why many foster-based rescues have rules about when fosters can adopt animals they host. Some don't permit so-called "foster fails" the first time you foster -- or for the first year. But what is guaranteed is that a fostered animal already knows love by the time it's ready for its fur-ever home.
"Just to see them grow and become amazing dogs from nothing, there's just nothing like it," Nikki said.
Muttley Crue is just one Northeast Ohio organization in need of fosters and volunteers. We heard from many others who could also use your help. There information is below:
MUTTLEY CRUE: Volunteer and foster opportunities HERE.
LAKE ERIE LABRADOR RETRIEVER RESCUE: (Currently at capacity!) Volunteer and foster opportunities HERE.
DOBERMAN UNDERGROUND: Fostering opportunities HERE.
MUTTS IN A RUTT: Volunteer and fostering HERE.
PARMA ANIMAL SHELTER (Currently has 81 kittens and is at capacity) Fostering info HERE.
LAKE HUMANE SOCIETY: Fostering opportunities HERE.
GOODNIGHT FARM RESCUE: Fostering opportunities HERE.
ANIMAL CHARITY OF OHIO: Volunteer opportunities HERE.
RESCUE VILLAGE: Volunteer and fostering opportunities HERE.
SECOND CHANCE ANIMAL RESCUE: Fostering opportunities HERE.
COMMUNITY ACTION TO SAVE STRAYS (CATSS) Fostering opportunities HERE.
STORM'S ANGELS: Fostering opportunities HERE.
KELLY'S KRITTERS: Fostering and volunteer opportunities HERE.
AMY'S ADOPTABLES: Fostering opportunities HERE.
MERCY'S DOOR PET RESCUE: Fostering opportunities HERE.
HOUSE OF MEWS: Fostering opportunities HERE.
CLEVELAND APL: Fostering opportunities HERE.
TAILS FROM THE CITY: Volunteer and fostering opportunities HERE.
Humane Society of Summit County: Volunteer and fostering opportunities HERE.
Whispers Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary: Volunteer and fostering opportunities HERE.