Open Hearts and Open Homes

When local animal shelters fill up, foster families welcome abandoned pets—and often enjoy life-changing experiences.

What most people don’t realize,” Cassie Marischen says, “is how many animals we actually take in.” Marischen is the manager of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Cape Cod Adoption Center, a Centerville shelter that cares for all kinds of animals that have been abandoned or surrendered by their owners, including cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, rabbits, and even chinchillas. When other shelters turn animals away because of old age, aggressive behavior, or because they’re full, animals need to go somewhere else. “We are the somewhere else,” says Marischen.’

Open Hearts and Open Homes

As a result, the MSPCA sometimes takes in more animals than they can accommodate. During the first week of August, the MSPCA had a staggering 142 animals under its auspices, including 112 within the walls of its location on Route 28. The remaining 30 were with foster families—volunteers that open their hearts and their homes to displaced animals.


Animals are fostered for a variety of reasons, the most common being age. Kittens and puppies must be at least eight weeks old in order to be safely spayed or neutered and adopted. Motherless kittens need to be bottle-fed. Animals recovering from illness or recuperating from medical procedures do so faster and better in homes versus in shelters. Foster parents provide animals with exercise, feeding, socialization, and playtime. The demand for fostering peaks during the spring and summer, which is when most cats give birth to kittens, but it’s never nonexistent. “We always need more foster families,” says Marischen.

Open Hearts and Open Homes

Animal fostering plays a pivotal role in easing the burden of the strained budgets, resources, and staffs of animal shelters. Fostering provides the one-on-one attention to animals that shelters can’t, simply because of the sheer number of animals they care for. “All of the volunteers are part of the team, [working toward] giving that animal a chance to be adopted,” says Pam Walker, assistant manager of another local animal welfare organization, the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Brewster shelter. The MSPCA and ARLB rely on the generosity of their volunteers, including the following three foster parents and families.

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Hillary Wenzel is a frequent contributor to Cape Cod Life

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