There are a number of reasons why dogs are fostered, from the puppy being too young for adoption to limited space in shelters. Some rescue organizations don't actually offer physical space to house animals and so they rely on foster parents who provide temporary homes for the dogs. In other cases, surgery, illness or injury dictates that a potential pet be fostered so it can recuperate or to mitigate behavior problems associated with a specific shelter experience. In other cases a potential pet may simply need to be socialized.
Best Friends has endeavored to make Los Angeles the largest no-kill city in the nation. In 2012, the animal welfare organization launched NKLA (No-Kill Los Angeles campaign) in partnership with Los Angeles Animals Services and local stakeholders. To date, Best Friends has successfully recruited local citizens and organizations to help animals in need.
Earlier this year, actress Charlotte Ross received the HSUS' Animal Advocate Award to help advance no-kill interests nationwide. The actress rolled up her sleeves, adorned animal shelter attire and joined Best Friend's Animal Society staff and volunteers at their headquarters in Utah for rigorous training through a shelter animal care boot camp of sorts.
While some celebrities may talk the talk when it comes to campaigning on behalf of the voiceless, Charlotte Ross walks the walk. Ross is no stranger to playing difficult roles. The Emmy-nominated, daytime and primetime television actress is as versatile as she is seasoned. From her early work on Days of Our Lives and NYPD Blue to shows like Frasier, ER, Law & Order, CSI and Murder One, to her recent appearances on Glee, Nashville and Arrow, Ross has done it all. Off-camera, she has managed to achieve just as much acclaim as an animal activist and rescuer.
I got a chance to interview Ross last week and ask her how the puppies were doing and to learn a little more about Best Friends and their foster and adoption programs for companion animals. Below is my exclusive interview with her.
Jordan: How long have you been fostering these puppies?
Charlotte: They have been under my care for about three and half weeks, but recently we managed to adopt them out. My publicist, Renee, adopted Fluffy and my son and I adopted Sadie.
Jordan: What compelled you to foster rather than adopt?
Charlotte: I lost my dog Taco almost a year ago and miss him terribly. I wasn't ready to adopt another dog right away. Essentially, fostering helped me heal from the loss of Taco until I was ready to adopt again. Who wouldn't want to wake up every morning to hugs, kisses, tails wagging and animals that are so grateful it emanates from their soul when they look at you? It's one of the most beautiful things I've ever been a part of, really. I also think that it's an easy way to teach children responsible animal care at home. It prepares them for when they take on an adoption of their own. The reasons to foster are endless and fostering has truly become one of the biggest joys of my life.
Jordan: How did you get into foster care and how did you come to foster these four puppies?
Charlotte: I've been fostering on and off for over 10 years now. I started with the ASPCA in LA, and with several other organizations. I've fostered kittens with a mom, kittens without a mom, puppies with a mom and puppies without a mom. Each time is a beautiful adventure and I still love them all.
Jordan: What is it about Best Friends that drew you to their specific programs for shelter animals?
Charlotte: I'm a huge fan of Best Friends and all the extraordinary work that they do in all of their no-kill shelters around the country. I feel they are the true leader in making my personal dream come true, which is to make the U.S. a no-kill country. I believe everyone innately loves animals and no one wants to see healthy, adoptable animals put down just because they can't find a home them.
Jordan: Tell me about Best Friend's programs and how you feel they compare with other rescue and welfare organizations?
Charlotte: Best Friends is doing an exemplary job at their main "paradise" in Utah. They are making serious headway daily in helping the rest of the U.S. become no-kill and helping Los Angeles, in particular, become the first city to become no-kill!
Best Friends has wonderful spay and neuter programs here in LA, a save black cats program called Back in Black, an adopt senior dogs initiative, which is also here in LA, and Strut Your Mutt . Strut Your Mutt is a big fundraiser, which includes an annual dog walk, fun run, and a fantastic festival.
Best Friends is also endlessly selfless in their work as they strive to help other animal rights groups in states all over the country. They actually help other organizations build, manage and thrive as no-kill sanctuaries. There are so many great animal charities out there. I think Best Friends is so successful and effective at what they do because they see the big picture, and they truly put animal welfare first. They are also keen on partnerships and collaborations. Best Friends wants everyone to strive to be no-kill. The hope is that in the end, we can all, working as a team and community, help eradicate the needless killing of beautiful pet animals.
Jordan: When does fostering become a necessity in your opinion?
Charlotte: When kittens or puppies are too young to be adopted, a shelter can be a very scary place and can lead to emotional issues like skittishness, distrust and fear. So, at such times when these animals are at their most vulnerable and at a needy age of development, it is most vital for us to provide love, hugs, and a warm and a safe personal home for them to relax in as much as possible.
Jordan: Would you recommend fostering animals to your friends and family?
Charlotte: First, let me say that I have such admiration and love for volunteers that do this. It's a very selfless job, obviously, and the huge hearts of the people I've met along the way who do this are beyond inspiring to me. We all agree: you get more out of fostering than the animals in some ways. Fostering has really become a part of my life now. I highly recommend it to anyone who can't adopt because they may travel, etc. I travel a lot. So when I'm home for two weeks or even three weeks, I foster.
Jordan: Is it hard to relinquish these cute fur balls for adoption?
Charlotte: Yes, as I cry each time I return animals I've fostered but I've decided that I can either adopt them all, which is not a reality, or foster some of them and know that Best Friends will find them a loving forever home for them.
Jordan: Does Best Friends have a tracking program to ensure the animals are provided with life long care?
Charlotte: Yes, they make sure that each animal is micro-chipped and so if ever an animal is returned anywhere, it will be found and brought back to Best Friends to either get adopted again or live out their days with the Society. People returning animals to shelters is one of my biggest frustrations in life. These companion animals should be viewed as nothing less than your child. period. If you move or have a baby, would you give away your loyal child? If your child gets older, do you then abandon them?
And, anyone who doesn't spay or neuter is, simply, helping more animals be put down as there are not enough homes for them all. And, I'm talking about healthy, sometimes young, sometimes pure-bred animals... killed. I think owners need to take more responsibility. All these animals want to do is to love us forever, unconditionally.
Jordan: Charlotte, thank you so much for your time. It is great catching up with you. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Charlotte: Yes! Please, go to Best Friends or your local county or city shelter, where, tragically, the kill rates are very high and try to help animals in need by fostering some dogs or cats for a while. Big dogs and old dogs and cats need so much human care. A few days of fostering these animals can help them relax, feel loved and raise their chances of getting adopted as well. You won't regret it!
Best Friends Animal Society is the only national animal welfare organization focused exclusively on ending the killing of more than 9,000 cats and dogs per day in America's shelters. Last fall, Best Friends launched their new call to action campaign, Save Them All to create awareness for this issue and of the need to adopt and spay/neuter all pets.
Dr. Jordan Schaul previously interviewed Charlotte Ross for a National Geographic article on the subject of great apes and bonobo conservation, in particular. To learn more about Charlotte's animal advocacy work, please follow the actress on her Twitter page.