Establishing a contract with a foster that you have approved is important to ensuring that expectations on both sides are clear. What expenses does the organization cover and what does the foster have to pick up? Who has ultimate legal rights to the animal? Below we cover some of the important elements to include in your agreement. We’ve also sourced some examples for you to reference as you build out your contract to your needs. Remember to consult with an attorney to ensure your contract has legal authority under the laws where you are located.
Legalese – Consult with an attorney for the language appropriate for your jurisdiction. Incorporating the legal owership and stipulating conditions that would cause termination of the foster contract is important to ensure you have legal rights to take the animal back. Laws vary and are constantly changing but historically have deemed animals to be property so clearly stipulating the property rights up front will save you difficulties down the line.
Covered & non-covered expenses – One of the most often unclear items in fostering is what expenses are born by which party. If you are an organization looking to recruit fosters, you may be more willing to pay more of the expenses of the animal than if you have more fosters than animals. And, if your organization is a registered 501(c)(3) IRS public charity, expenses born by the foster may be deductible on their tax returns. Here are some elements to consider outlining so that it is clear who is covering them:
Medical – The largest expense by far in animal fostering is medical. Will your organization cover the vet visits for preventative care? Does each vet visit require pre-approval from your organization to cover the expenses? Who chooses which veterinarian the animal goes to? In the event of an emergency is there a dollar limit that the foster is allowed to authorize without pre-approval from your organization?
Food & medicine – Does your organization require a particular brand, or type of food be fed to the animal? Does the food need to be obtained by your organization or sourced and reimbursed by the foster? What preventative medicines are required to be administered (heartworm, flea/tick, rabies) and who bears those expenses? Are there particular brands of medications that need to be used?
Travel related – Do you require the foster to bring the animal to adoption events? Who covers the cost of transportation (mileage, bus fare, parking) to/from these events? Will the foster be asked to transport the animal to a potential adopter location for a meet/greet? How are these expenses covered?
Accommodations – Will your organization provide for house accommodations if the foster needs to go out of town (weekends/holidays,etc)? How will these expenses be covered? Who chooses the accommodations (boarding, pet sitter, etc.)?
Equipment – Does your organization provide collar, leash, tags, crate, bowls, bedding, clothing or provide a stipend to the foster for the purchase of these items?
Promotion – Will you require the foster to have the dog photographed in order to share with potential adopters? Will your foster be required to travel to have the animal photographed?
Anything else – What other expenses will your organization explicitly provide or not provide?
Medical decisions – During the fostering of an animal, events can and do happen. The animal might escape and be struck by a person or a car, the animal might get into a fight or a scuffle with another animal and require medical attention, or the animal might exhibit behaviors that require the foster to seek medical attention. In your fostering contract you should clearly spell out when the foster is required to seek pre-approval from your organization prior to seeking medical attention.
Adoption process – As the foster advocate for the animal, your fosters may be advocating to their friends and family to permanently adopt the animal and provide them with a loving forever home. While this is helpful to the ultimate goal of getting the animal permanently adopted, it can cause problems if the foster does not follow your established process. What do you want the foster to do and not do when advocating for the animal? Do any potential adopter leads need to be forwarded to your organization or formal adoption paperwork filled out on your website?
Living conditions – Specifying where the animal should and should not be kept is important to clarify in your foster agreement. Depending on the background of your foster, they may have a different understanding for what is acceptable accomodations for an animal. Is it acceptable for your foster to choose where the animal is housed indoors or outdoors? Does the foster need to maintain a fenced in yard? Is an invisible fence type system acceptable? Is tethering the animal outside acceptable?
Family members – Clearly outlining family members that will interact with the fostered animal is important to proactively preventing problems. Does the foster have other pets and is this acceptable? Does the foster have children; any specific requirements related to children interacting with the fostered animal? Should the family situation change (new baby, new animal, etc.) is there any notification to your organization that is required?
Behavior & training – Laying out the responsibility for ongoing training, and how to handle behavior problems will ensure that your fosters are prepared for what they are signing up for. Does your organization require the fostered animal to have any recurrant training? How will the expenses related to this training be covered? What should your foster do should they experience behavior problems? Are there any resources your organization provides for these situations?