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Researchers to test hybrid fostering program to improve lives of shelter dogs

Crystal Graham
volunteer with dog in shelter
(© andyborodaty – stock.adobe.com)

Virginia Tech researchers are exploring a hybrid fostering program which may make things easier for caregivers and keep more dogs out of full animal shelters.

Funded with a grant from PetSmart Charities, researchers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Animal Sciences will work with PetSmart and foster families. The dogs will stay in one of PetSmart’s Everyday Adoption Centers during the day, and they go home at night with their foster family.

The idea is that caregivers can drop the dog off at PetSmart on their way to work and pick them up on the way home – giving the adoptable dogs more visibility to the public and easing the burden of care during the day for foster families.

Previous research by project lead Lisa Gunter and a colleague at Virginia Tech and Arizona State University led Gunter to conduct the study to address barriers to fostering shelter animals.

“A barrier to recruiting and retaining foster caregivers is the commonly held belief of the time commitment involved in fostering,” said Gunter. “By providing daytime care at a PetSmart Everyday Adoption Center, that barrier to participation is greatly reduced.

“Hybrid fostering offers a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of shelter dogs and improve their quality of life while awaiting adoption.”

Gunter hopes the study will making fostering shelter animals easier for families.

“We hope that a successful hybrid fostering program could be rolled out to all of PetSmart’s Everyday Adoption Centers,” Gunter said. “As for bigger implications, ideally this research would inspire shelters to try out hybrid fostering programs in their communities to help improve the welfare of dogs awaiting adoption and increase foster caregiving in their communities.”

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.