Foster Program

Is Fostering for Santa Rosa County Animal Services Right for You?

What is fostering?
Fostering is providing a temporary home for a homeless pet, who for whatever reason, needs to be housed outside of the shelter. Fostering is truly lifesaving!

Why should I foster?
Fostering can be a wonderful experience for you and your family.  You can feel good knowing that you are making a difference in an animal’s life, along with helping your community. By opening your home, you are freeing up space for other animals and providing individualized attention that certain animals require.

What types of animals need foster care?

  • Kittens and puppies too young to be in the shelter
  • Animals recovering from illness or injury
  • Animals that need a break from a shelter environment

How long do animals need to be in foster care?
Every situation is different!  Foster commitments can range from just a few days to several months, so you can choose an option that is suitable to your lifestyle.

How much time is required on my part?
It depends on the situation.  Foster animals need all the same things that owned animals do and may need more attention if they are very young or recovering from illness/injury.

What are some potential risks of fostering an animal?

  • Owned animals could catch a disease and/or parasite from a foster animal
  • Foster families, members of the household, or visitors could catch a disease and/or parasite from a foster animal
  • Owned animals or foster animals have the potential to hurt each other, care should always be made when introducing your foster pet to owned pets
  • Foster animals may destroy personal items, oftentimes this is preventable with due care
  • Foster animals may not thrive despite all efforts and may possibly die in foster care or need to be returned to the shelter for humane euthanization. Despite best efforts sometimes this is a possibility that is unavoidable.

What happens if my animal needs medical care?
All medical care will need to be provided under the guidance of Santa Rosa County Animal Services. Contact will need to be made to Santa Rosa County should you have a medical issue with your animal that needs to be addressed. Reimbursements cannot be made for medical care that has not been preauthorized.

Can I take my animal to adoption events?
Occasionally, Santa Rosa County Animal Services participates in adoption events and depending on your animal you may be invited to attend. The animal is still considered property of Santa Rosa County and all adoptions must take place through their standardized procedure. You are welcome to promote your animal to be adopted on your personal social media pages if a specific adoptee or rescue has not already been assigned to your animal once foster is completed. 

Can I adopt my foster animal?
Yes, unless in the rare circumstance that placement has already been established and fostering is just a stepping stone for that animal.  As long as you meet the requirements necessary for adoption, you can adopt your foster animal.


  • To reduce euthanasia rates of potentially adoptable animals at Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter by providing them a safe environment to flourish with maturity, development of social skills, and/or to recover from injuries, illness, or disease.
  • To alleviate space issues the shelter has by offering animals other options to wait out the time periods they must endure until their actual adoption takes place.
  • To offer better care for the animals that require specialized treatment plans due to age or medical issues.


  • To ensure that all animals have reached the proper level of maturity before being placed in adoption.
  • To raise the standard of health in animals available for adoption by fostering ill or injured animals.
  • To increase the adoptability of animals by providing home environments and opportunities for socialization that align with what they will experience once they reach their forever home.

Foster Parent Qualifications

  • Foster parents must be able to provide a safe, loving, and stable environment while the animal is in their foster care.
  • Foster parents must be over 18 years of age.
  • Experience with animal behavioral or medical issues is a plus, but not necessary.
  • Foster parents must have patience, as well as be willing to provide needed care which may consist of bottle feeding, administering medicines, or other requirements which will be set forth by Santa Rosa Animal Services.
  • All foster families agree to a home inspection performed by a Santa Rosa Shelter staff member at any time.
  • Foster parents must be able to transport their foster animal to and from the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter during business hours, should the need arise.
  • Foster applications must be submitted and approved prior to fostering with our organization.


  • Foster cats must always be kept indoors and transported by a cat carrier to and from Santa Rosa Animal Services.
  • If you are fostering a cat, doggie doors must be inaccessible to the outside while the cat is free roaming in your home. If you allow access to a screened porch, screening must be secure to prevent escape.
  • Foster dogs must be kept indoors, preferably in a secure kennel when you are not home.
  • No off-leash park visits for foster dogs.
  • Foster parents must respond within 24 hours to communications from shelter staff.
  • Foster homes for dogs should have a secure fence or must be walked outside on a leash at all times.
  • Foster parents must be willing to bring the animal to the shelter if there is a potential adopter.
  • Foster parents must return animal to the shelter if they are no longer able to provide care.  Turning over to a third party is strictly prohibited.
  • Observation of any problems should be immediately reported to the shelter staff.
  • All current animals must be vaccinated against rabies and that information must be provided when submitting foster care application.
  • Immediately inform Santa Rosa Animal Services of any changes to address or phone number.
  • If leaving town or unable to care for your foster animal(s) for any reason, please return to the animal shelter.  Please call as soon as you know of such a situation so that we can arrange for their continuing care.  It is acceptable for a spouse to care for the animal but do NOT relinquish their care to a friend, relative, pet sitter, etc.
  • If you take a foster animal to a vet without prior authorization, you WILL NOT be reimbursed for expenses.
  • Notify Santa Rosa Animal Shelter immediately if a foster animal gets lost.
  • Call the shelter if a foster animal gets sick and follow the shelter’s instructions for care, treatment, and/or transportation of the animal.
  • Arrangements for routine and emergency health care need to be made through Santa Rosa Animal Services.
  • Animal shelter staff may remove a foster animal from a foster home for any reason they deem necessary.
  • Encouragement is made for you to find a permanent home for your foster animal that you seem suitable, however all adoptions must be done through Santa Rosa Animal Shelter.
  • You are responsible for notifying the shelter of any possible issues.  The sooner they are addressed the better outcome that can be obtained.  For instance, for a neonatal kitten or puppy that is not eating or is experiencing diarrhea it can be detrimental to their health.

To report any problems or to ask any questions, call the shelter, 850-983-4680. For after-hours emergencies, call 850-281-5737. Resources are limited when the shelter is closed. 

Getting Started  
After your foster application has been received and approved, you will receive a welcome email and we will invite you to join our foster Facebook pagePrior to fostering any animals, you will be required to sign the foster agreement, which will be kept on file at the shelter. Please note, if at any time you have questions regarding the foster program, potential foster animals, etc., those questions should be directed at the foster coordinator.  

Picking Up a New Foster Animal
If you are interested in fostering a particular animal or litter, please contact the foster coordinator as soon as possible. Once we receive your interest, we will verify that the animal is still available, answer any questions that you may have, and confirm a pick-up date and time. All questions regarding an animal’s history, behavior, medical needs, special care instructions, etc. should be directed at the foster coordinator prior to pick up.

You may also visit the shelter to browse long-stay animals (those that have been at the shelter for 30+ days) that are available for foster care. These animals can be identified by the colorful signs on their kennels noting that they are available for foster. Just look for the signs as you are walking through the kennels. 

When picking up a new foster animal, please go to the main lobby and tell a staff member you are a foster. You will need to have the animal’s ID number with you. When picking up your foster animal you will receive a foster pet schedule with additional details regarding their care and their future medical needs.

The main lobby is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. for foster pick up and drop offs. If you are not able to come during these hours and would like to make arrangements to pick-up earlier in the day, please contact the foster coordinator.