Get Involved at the Hamilton County Animal Shelter
Foster a Shelter Animal in Your Home
Fostering Saves Lives!
By opening your home to a foster pet, you:
- Open our precious kennel space for another animal.
- Give an animal a break from the shelter.
- Learn more about the animal in a home environment; providing us with invaluable information that helps us find the right home for the animal.
- Give an animal exposure to potential adopters outside the shelter.
Types of Fostering
- Lunch Date (dogs only)
- Overnight (dogs only)
- Short-Term (cats and dogs)
This short-term fostering commitment is a great way to give a dog a few hours of fun, away from the shelter. Just stop by the shelter and we’ll match you with a dog that you are comfortable with and would benefit from a “lunch date”.
Lunch Dates usually last 2-4 hours and Lunch Date Fosters typically take their foster dog on a walk for exercise, home for quiet time, or an outdoor patio or cafe. This type of fostering is ideal for someone with limited time or can’t bring a foster dog into their home.
Sometimes a quiet night in a home can do wonders for a shelter dog. This night away from the shelter gives them time to decompress and get caught up on sleep. This short-term fostering commitment is ideal for weekend warriors who can’t commit to long-term fostering.
Short-term fostering typically lasts a week or two and is helpful to us when:
- We are close to capacity and need to open some kennel space.
- An animal is not ready for adoption yet.
- We are responding to an emergency such as taking a large amount of animals all at once such as in the case of hoarding or natural disaster.
- An animal could benefit from a break from the shelter.
- We want to get to know the personality of an animal outside the shelter.
Some animals come to us with behavior issues that need regular, daily attention that is difficult for us to provide in a shelter setting with 60+ dogs and upwards of 100 cats. Our Long-term Behavior fosters receive training from our Dog and Cat Program Managers with detailed instructions on what each animal needs to work on. With a plan in place and a support team behind them, our animals with behavior issues have shown great results in their foster homes! The length of a Long-term Behavior foster varies but is typically 1-3 months, depending on the behavior issue and how quickly the animal is overcoming it.
Long-term Behavior fostering is ideal for anyone interested in animal behavior and training and wants to make a huge impact for a shelter animal.
Some animals come to us with medical issues that require more attention than we can provide in the shelter environment. Some animals need somewhere quiet to recover or daily treatment. Our Long-term Medical fosters receive training and support from our Medical team, including 24/7 access to our Medical Foster Coordinator.
Long-term Medical foster usually last between 2-6 weeks, depending on the severity of the medical issue and length of recovery time. This type of fostering is great for anyone with an interest in veterinary medicine.
We often have animals in our care who are in the midst of lengthy court cases as their owners are being prosecuted for various animal care violations. In these cases, the animals involved are subject to a long period of limbo and are simply waiting for the court proceedings to complete. Moving these animals to foster makes for a better life for the animal and keeps our kennel space clear for other animals.
This type of fostering is great for someone who wants to show an animal what a loving home looks like. The foster is responsible for keeping the status of the animal confidential and strictly following Cincinnati Animal CARE rules and policies for the safety of the animal, shelter and the foster home.
Please note that all Animal Control animals with open cases are evaluated for temperament and health before being sent to foster. If it is determined that an animal is dangerous due to the conditions they were kept in, Cincinnati Animal CARE will not seek foster for that particular animal.
As a service to our community, we sometimes board animals whose owner temporarily cannot care for them. This may be due to homelessness, domestic violence or other life-altering events.
In order to provide this service to the community, while keeping our kennel space open to homeless animals in need, we ask for foster homes to take in these pets. Special Boarding situations usually last between 4-8 weeks and is a great option for foster homes who want to make an impact not only with animals, but with the people in your community.
An animal shelter is a dangerous place for an unvaccinated puppy. When puppies come in to our shelter, it is important to get them out and into foster homes as quickly as possible to limit exposure to illness.
Puppy fostering typically lasts 2-4 weeks and gives the puppy time to become fully vaccinated before entering the shelter environment.
An animal shelter is a dangerous place for an unvaccinated kitten. When kittens to come to our shelter, it is important to get them out and into foster homes as quickly as possible to limit exposure to illness.
Kitten fostering typically lasts 4-8 weeks and gives the kitten time to become fully vaccinated before entering the shelter environment. A kitten can be spayed or neutered once they hit 2.2lbs which is around 8-10 weeks of age.
Did you know there is something called “Kitten Season”? It sounds cute but is actually a really difficult time for animal shelters across the country. Kittens as young as a couple hours old are taken to animal shelters and until they are old enough to eat on their own (around 4 weeks of age), they must be bottle fed to survive.
Fostering bottle babies is possibly the single most impactful way a person can save a life at an animal shelter. Bottle baby kittens are extremely vulnerable but with proper care and attention, they can grow up to be healthy, happy adults. Without bottle baby fosters, these young kittens often do not survive.
Bottle baby fosters should be:
- Able to bottle feed and stimulate for elimination every 2-4 hours, gradually decreasing to every 4-6 hours as the kittens get older.
- Provide constant warmth in the form of heating pads or microwaved rice packs.
- Able to follow strict disease-control protocol.
Ideally, bottle baby fosters work from home, are retired, or have the ability to take their little ones to work with them. Bottle babies are very easy as they mostly just sleep but need regular feeding and stimulation for elimination.
Watching your bottle babies grow up to be strong kittens is highly rewarding! Even fostering one litter a year will make a huge difference for our shelter and the lives of our animals.
If you’re interested in fostering, please complete and submit the application and a shelter representative will contact you shortly.
(application opens in a new tab)
Thanks so much for helping us save more lives!
Frequently Asked Foster Questions
To save more animals! Some animals don’t do well in the shelter environment, like puppies, kittens, elderly pets and those requiring special attention, diets or medical care. The shelter’s foster care program saves two animals, the one placed into a loving foster home and the shelter animal taking its place. The success of our mission depends on a vibrant and healthy foster care program. Please consider enrolling as a foster family for a shelter animal.
We have several foster options that allow you to foster for the length of time that works best for you. Fostering can be as short as a few hours and as long as a few months. Any amount of foster time you can offer benefits the shelter and our animals.
Yes! Our Dog and Cat Program Managers will work closely with you to find the right foster animal for your home and lifestyle. If you have pets at home, we may ask you to bring them in for a meet and greet and we will always provide detailed instructions and tips for introducing pets safely. In some situations, we may recommend your pet and foster animal do not meet at all and in that case, we will provide support and instructions for that as well.
That’s OK! You can bring your foster animal back to the shelter at any time. If possible, let us know ahead of time so we can be prepared.
We have found that fostering with multiple organizations can be confusing for the foster as different shelters and rescues have different polices and procedures. In addition, animals from different organizations can come with different health requirements and vaccine history which can be dangerous for the less vaccinated animals.
If you chose to foster with Cincinnati Animal CARE, we simply ask that you have no other animals from other organizations in your care at the time.
Volunteer at the Hamilton County Animal Shelter
There are many ways to volunteer and make a difference for animals in Hamilton County. The first step will be to attend a Volunteer Orientation, held monthly, to learn more about our shelter, what we do, why we do it, and how you can help. To register for an upcoming session, please complete the Volunteer Registration form.
Current volunteer opportunities:
On-site with Cats (requires additional training)
- Join a morning Cat Care Team.
- Become an Adoption Counselor.
- Spend time with cats who need time outside of their cage.
- Assist with enrichment activities.
- Walk dogs.
- Provide in-kennel enrichment.
- Work on behavior with assigned dogs.
- Run Playgroups.
On-Site Support Team (hands off the animals)
- Assist with laundry (we have a lot of it!).
- Prepare enrichment activities (stuff KONGS, make toys, etc.).
- Answer phones.
- Data entry.
- Facility cleaning.
- Social media.
- Cat care, transport, and adoptions at our off-site pet store partners Petco Milford and Pet Valu Beechmont.
- Adoption and fundraising events.
- Transport to and from spay/neuter surgeries, adoption events, shelter pulls from emergency situations or natural disasters.
(application opens in a new tab)
Thanks so much for helping us save more lives!
Frequently Asked Volunteer Questions
- Cat Socialization – Pet cats, read to cats, play with cats, brush cats, etc.
- Cat Cage Cleaning – Prior to opening help staff clean kennels, feed cats, and prep cages.
- Cat Enrichment Building & Distributing – Build fun toys for cats to play with and distribute to cats daily for some enrichment time.
- Kitty City Greeter – Welcome visitors of kitty city and help answer any questions they may have.
- Dog Walking – Tues, Wed, Sat, & Sun walk group 10AM-1PM – Walk dogs around the shelter to give them time out of their kennels.
- Dog Enrichment Building & Distributing – Stuff Kongs, make lick mats, and make pupsicles to then be distributed daily to dogs in their kennels.
- Census Taker – Help the lead volunteer with walk group keep track of what volunteer has what dog. (Great opportunity for someone who does not want to handle dogs but is happy to be around them).
- Playgroup Assistant – Help the behavior team with dogs taking part in playgroup activities. Must be a higher level volunteer for this position.
Administrative and Others
- Wash Dishes
- Off Site Events
- 18+ to handle dogs
- 15+ to volunteer in Kitty City & Administrative/Others activities with parental consent/signature on volunteer agreement at 1st shift.
Community service hours for school is accepted! You must intend to volunteer at least 3 hours per month and maintain those hours monthly. Anyone who does not have 3 hours logged per month for more than 3 months in a row will become inactive in our system.
Court-ordered community service is accepted on a case by case basis. These volunteers will not work directly with animals.
A minimum of 3 hours per month must be maintained in order to remain as an active volunteer at the shelter. Any volunteer who does not maintain the 3 hours per month and does not reach out to the Volunteer Coordinator to ask for a short term leave will be set as inactive in the system.
Yes! It is very important to us that you have the knowledge and tools to work with our animals and on behalf of our organization. All volunteers are required to complete New Volunteer Orientation (online) and those working with dogs or cats are required to complete role-specific training with our program managers.
Yes! We welcome teams of 3-10 members to volunteer at the shelter! Please email our Volunteer Services so we can arrange details.
We generally like to match volunteer groups with walking dogs. But, we have other seasonal opportunities, like landscaping and making enrichment items as well.
Become a Shelter Partner
Cincinnati Animal CARE is strengthened by our alliance of life-saving partners from the animal welfare and business communities, providing shelter support and diversion assistance to help manage shelter population and improve the lives of animals while in our care.
Lending support in key areas, our partners help to limit the influx and to control the number of animals in the shelter. They also help enrich the lives of animals during their shelter stay and provide services to help improve an animal’s chances of adoption, Our partners extend a hand by offering such services as:
View Our Current Partners
Our Shelter Partners are among the most prominent and effective local organizations in their fields.
Let’s Get Started
If you would like to partner with us, fill out the form below and one of our staff members will get back to you.