New rescue volunteers should be cautioned against “going off half-cocked,” going on independent “shelter checks” and doing rescue work or  spending money without getting prior approval AMBCR the rescuer for whom they are volunteering. It is essential that people do not take in a dog, pay for all kinds of vet care, and then tell the rescue group they are fostering the dog for AMBCR. All dogs accepted into AMBCR foster care SHOULD BE AGREED UPON; otherwise there may be NO obligation to reimburse costs or provide placement services to anyone who has made the decision on their own to rescue and take in a dog.

General Policies for Foster Care

In general, we like to be sure that foster care providers take care of their own dogs well and will provide adequate and responsible care for a rescue dog. Heroic efforts and care for one dog may not be advisable. Their own dogs must be fully vaccinated and on heartworm, as well as flea/tick preventative. The foster home must be willing to provide a foster dog with feeding, toys, grooming, bathing/flea and tick dipping or spraying, and one dose of heartworm preventative which doubles as worming, at their own expense. All other essentials of daily living and care are expected to be the responsibility of foster home. If necessary and if an extra crate is available to loan, some foster care providers may borrow a crate to use for foster dogs.

Provide Basic Health Care: All dogs must be provided with basic veterinary care (vaccinations and heartworm testing). 

Spaying/Neutering Is Not Optional! Every dog must be spayed or neutered before it is placed in a new home. It may be hard to tell if a female dog is already spayed. If your vet believes that she has already been spayed you can place her with the additional stipulation in the adoption contract that if she comes in season, the new owners will have her spayed immediately.

In the case of puppies too young to spay/neuter before adoption, the requirement to have this done will be stipulated in the adoption contract, with a specific target date mentioned. Contact will be maintained with the new owners of these dogs for at least six months after placement to be sure spaying/neutering is taken care of. Failure to comply with our spay/neuter policy can lead to having the dog removed from the home.

Any adoption applicant who seems at all hesitant or reluctant to comply with our spay/neuter policy, or states different beliefs about spaying and neutering pets, should not even be considered someone we would adopt a dog to.                        

Evaluating Rescues Before Accepting: Dogs must be screened in person prior to be accepted into rescue. Commitments to take a dog into rescue should not be made until evaluation is as complete as possible. If the volunteer is uncertain or feels under-qualified to completely assess the dog, they should ask for assistance and further evaluation by a more experienced rescuer.

Evaluating Candidate Homes Carefully & Reimbursement of Expenses: This process should be a team effort – the foster care provider should not feel they have to do this alone, nor is it advisable that they approach the process without help from other AMBCR rescuers. If you are fostering a dog, you may wish to reserve the right to make the final decision about who will adopt the dog. But you can decide to let another AMBCR rescuer make the choice. Your level of participation in screening and choosing a permanent home for your foster dog will be up to you (see below “ADOPTING DOGS”). If you do your own screening and approve an adopter on your own, responsibility for follow up after the adoption will be yours alone. You will keep the adoption fee to reimburse your expenses. If another AMBCR rescuer has a home lined up for a dog, you will be asked to bring the dog at least part way to meet its potential adopters. If the adoption happens, you will be reimbursed your vet expenses from the adoption fee and the rescuer who found the adopter, screened the home and will provide the follow up will keep the balance of the fee. If you refuse to release a dog to another AMBCR rescuer for adoption, then the dog’s foster care and eventual adoption will be your responsibility and any costs you have incurred for the dog will not be reimbursed by anyone else in AMBCR. You will recover your costs if you adopt the dog and collect an adoption fee.

Potential adopters must complete an adoption application, be screened in person and have a home visit prior to adopting a dog. No dog should be adopted to anyone until screening is performed as completely as possible. The ideal screening process should involve at least the following:  face-to-face interview, home visit, meeting between potential adopter and recommended dog, plus the adopter’s existing dog(s) so that the interaction between dog and potential adopter can be observed first hand.


Here is the list of what the AMBCR considers necessary veterinary care and the estimated cost of each rescue dog. In other words, it is what we can reasonably reimburse when the dog gets adopted, as long as the costs have been approved. Anything above and beyond these costs must be further approved or there may not be reimbursement for the foster home. The foster home must understand this clearly up front.

First step: Heartworm testing, $12-18. The dog must be negative. Testing can be done while the foster care provider waits and MUST be done BEFORE proceeding with any other veterinary care. If the dog is negative, the foster care provider will later administer one Interceptor tablet at their expense. If the dog is positive, the adoption fee will not cover treatment and the AMBCR does not keep funds on hand to provide for this and other expenses that will not be covered by an adoption fee. The foster care provider can either bring the dog back to the shelter, raise funds for treatment or decide to foot the bill themselves. The foster care provider is responsible for negotiating the cost of treatment (or euthanasia, in some cases) with their vet. If the dog is to be brought back to the shelter, a refund of the shelter's adoption fee should be obtained from the shelter, if one was paid. It is important that a shelter dog be taken for a HW test within a few days of being pulled from a shelter. We want to avoid becoming attached to a dog we may not be able to help and if the dog must be returned to the shelter, a refund will be given.

If we agree to take a dog surrendered by its owner, the owner must provide proof of a negative heartworm test that has been performed within the past 6 months, or take the dog to their vet for the test. Explain to the owner that we are unable to take heartworm-positive dogs and we must have assurance that the dog is heartworm-free before considering its acceptance into rescue. There is no need to arrange to evaluate the dog before receiving confirmation from the owner or their vet that the dog is heartworm-negative. It is preferred that the owner be also willing to have the dog’s vaccinations up to date and that the dog is spayed or neutered. If not, the owner can be asked to provide the funds to have this done (asking for $50-$100 is not unreasonable). If they refuse to provide the vet care or the funds and the dog is not in an abusive situation, we should probably decline to take the dog in. If the dog is being abused or badly neglected, we should discuss the pros and cons of taking the dog even though it means we are allowing the owner to be irresponsible. We need to consider whether the dog will be okay if left with its owners and that the owners will most likely seek a new home for the dog in a responsible manner (particularly not to a new owner who will use the dog for breeding). We can tell the owners that we can refer potential adopters to them ONLY if we have evaluated the dog in person so we know what the dog is like and ONLY if the dog’s heartworm status and vaccinations are up to date and ONLY if the dog is spayed or neutered.

The goal is to help caring owners find the right new home for their dog without having to fill a foster care space with a dog who already is in a safe situation. If the owner can and will provide the vet care and can “foster” their own dog while we look for a home, that is the best case scenario. In such situations, the owners should be completely willing to refer all inquiries they get about the dog to us for screening and also to release the dog to us if we find and approve a new home. The owner must be told clearly that they do not get to pick and choose the new home, reject adoption applicants we find, or maintain any contact with the new owners after the adoption. If they want to do that, they can find their own adopter. The bottom line is we take full responsibility for adoptions we make. We take the applications, do the screening, do the legwork and collect an adoption fee. The owner is essentially “donating” their dog. Since we may have no vet costs for a well-cared for owner-surrendered dog, the adoption fee will be used to cover other costs for other dogs that have come from shelters or have higher-than-normal costs. If an AMBCR colleague is in this situation, they can choose to keep the money for past or future expenses, or they can send some funds to another AMBCR colleague to help with the dogs they are fostering.  

Step 2: Proceed with vaccinations (DHLPAP and KCV or bordatella), will reimburse up to $25 TOTAL, plus up to $15 for a rabies vaccine. Foster care provider may be able to get their vet to provide these vaccinations for this price, or the dog may have been vaccinated at the shelter. We do reimburse shelter adoption fees up to $50 if ALL vaccinations are included. The foster care provider may buy vaccines (other than rabies) at a supply store and administer themselves, if desired. A vet must give the rabies shot and provide a rabies certificate.

Step 3: Spay/Neuter - We will reimburse up to $55 for neutering, $70 for spaying. We will NOT reimburse an additional office visit charge as we feel a vet should not charge an office fee for a ’pre-surgical exam”. The foster care provider is responsible for negotiating with their vet to keep these extra costs down, or they should use other low-cost services in their area. Foster care providers are encouraged to always seek services through the shelter where the dog came from, as the shelter may have participating vets who will provide services at reduced costs for shelter dogs.

The foster home should not expect that the adoption fee will reimburse for grooming or boarding, if these services are sought by the foster home. We expect that a foster home will be able to take care of the dog as if it were one of their own dogs. They should also be able to provide basic brushing, bathing and initial flea dipping if needed. Treatment with FrontLine at the foster home’s expense is recommended. We expect the foster home to be free of infestation and the foster home's own dogs to be free of fleas and ticks so the rescue dog will not require much in the way of flea/tick prevention while in foster care. We consider grooming and boarding "convenience services" that should be provided by the foster home. If they don't want to bathe or dip a dog themselves, they need to pay for a trip to a dog groomer. If someone takes in a foster dog and then goes away on vacation, they must pay boarding fees themselves.

We must try to get the lowest cost vet services available in our own area. If a foster care provider insists on using a particular vet that charges more or opts for additional services, they must understand that the adoption fee may not fully cover the costs. Example - stool check on an otherwise healthy-appearing dog who is showing no symptoms - if the dog is HW negative, it can be given Interceptor or other heartworm preventative (donated by the foster home), which will also worm the dog. If the dog has diarrhea or other symptoms of intestinal parasites after being wormed with heartworm preventative, a stool check should be obtained, plus medication needed to treat what the heartworm preventative did not cover. Our experience is that 4 out of 5 healthy-appearing dogs do fine with Interceptor and usually do not need further worming. So we try to avoid the extra cost if possible. 

Foster homes should be aware of issues such as isolation of a new rescue dog to prevent potential contamination of their own dogs with parasites or viruses that the rescue dog may be carrying. Thus, rescue dogs should be carefully screened for health concerns before being taken into foster care. The best way to do this is to take a dog from the shelter directly to a vet with whom cost negotiations have already been undertaken. Obvious signs of ill health or suspicious problems such as emaciation, bloody diarrhea, nasal discharge, coughing and skin conditions should be considered either ineligible for rescue or inappropriate for certain foster homes without the facilities to isolate a dog until it can be determined it is not carrying a communicable disease. It is difficult to make these choices when screening dogs but without financial resources to provide anything beyond the most basic veterinary care, we must select dogs for whom we will at least break even on a $150 adoption fee. A dog brought into a foster care situation with a suspicious problem that turns out to have a serious disease such as distemper, parvo, or active heartworms should be returned to the shelter. The adoption fee will not cover those kinds of treatment costs. Services such as a basic skin scraping to diagnose a skin condition should be okay. The foster care provider must then decide they are able to administer treatment (medication, medicated baths or dipping), provide special shampoo or dip or for other medication. Additional costs (such as office visits) to have a vet administer basic treatment will get expensive. If the foster care provider's own dogs catch something from the rescue dog and need treatment, this could also get costly.

Hopefully, these guidelines make it easier for people turn down a potentially sick or contagious dog. It’s a hard choice but unless someone has the proper facilities to offer isolation from their own dogs, taking in a sick dog is risky and the foster home must assume this risk.

NOTE: Demodectic mange is not contagious to healthy adult dogs or to humans so unless the foster home has an elderly dog or puppies, a rescue dog with demodex can be taken in but should be kept somewhat separate from the foster home’s dogs. Current treatment protocol consists of administering low dose liquid ivermectin over a 3-6 week period. This is fairly cheap medication but some vets prefer to recommend much higher cost treatment and use “scare tactics” to convince people they need to go for the expensive treatments. If your vet refuses to allow the less expensive (and completely effective) ivermectin approach, get another opinion from another vet. Caution – a young dog, under 18 mo. old with demodex is usually treatable and have a low, if no, risk for recurrence. Many vets don’t believe this and, again, will scare you into believing the condition is a lifelong immune system problem. This is not true but some vets will persist in this school of thought in spite of current scientific evidence to the contrary. However, foster care providers must be wary of an older dog with demodex, because the condition may indeed be a sign of an inherent immune deficiency and the dog may have a higher risk for recurrence.

Sarcoptic mange is highly contagious, even to humans. The good news is that sarcops is easier and quicker to treat (than demodex) by dipping the effected dog several times over a 10-day period with LymDip (horrid smelling sulphur stuff), a special formula for this condition that is available from a vet. But a dog under treatment for sarcops should be kept totally separated from the household dogs and possibly not in the main living areas of the house – i.e., in its own crate (without a lot of bedding) in a room, garage or porch where the other dogs do not sleep or frequent. The crate must be sterilized daily to kill any mites that have come off the dog’s body. Rubber gloves should be worn by the foster care provider when bathing, dipping or handling the effected dog. Small children should not be allowed to touch the effected dog.

At the time of adoption, the foster home must provide he originals and one copy of receipts for their expenses and all vet records. As the time for adoption approaches, all costs should be discussed with the AMBCR rescuer who is arranging the adoption so it can be agreed what part of the adoption fee the foster home will receive towards reimbursement. The rescuer will keep a copy of all receipts and records and the adopter will receive the originals with the dog.

We need foster homes badly but we cannot afford to pay every single expense a dog incurs while in foster care. Foster care providers must understand that they are doing this work on a voluntary basis and they are essentially taking on an extra dog to care for, as if they were adding that dog to their family. If they cannot or will not accept this, they should not do foster care.


ADOPTING DOGS: Policies concerning the foster home's input regarding the dog's eventual adoption vary. We like to give the foster care provider the option to have input. We keep them informed when an application comes through that we are thinking of matching with their foster dog. We ask their opinion. We offer them the opportunity to go along with one of us on the home visit. It just depends on the foster home.

Some foster homes are fostering ON BEHALF of a rescuer - in other words, they are "working for the rescuer" and simply providing a foster home. The screening of applicants and selection of an adopter will be completely up to the rescuer because that’s the way the foster home prefers things to be handled.

If a foster care provider does not especially want to take a proactive role in screening adopters and placing the dog, at minimum, the foster care provider must be willing to bring the foster dog to meet adopters when requested by the affiliate handling adoptions.

Other foster homes take a more active role in placing the dog. What role the foster care provider wants to take should be discussed and decided upon up front.

The AMBCR suggests that a foster care provider play an active role in screening and selecting adopters but they should never make a commitment to adopting the dog to anyone without agreement with the AMBCR affiliate who is directly involved with the applicant (i.e., doing the interviewing, making the home visit, etc.). By the same token, other group affiliates should avoid promising a particular dog to an adopter without keeping the foster home informed and making sure the foster home is comfortable with the prospect of placing the dog there. Good foster care providers should be given consideration since they are the ones who have taken care of the dog. But the main idea is that the foster homes should be part of a team effort to place a dog in the right home.

The worst case scenario is to have a dog in foster care, have a loving and responsible home approved for the dog, and then have the foster care provider refuse to turn over the dog for placement. This can be a real problem because we need to keep dogs moving into permanent homes so we can continue to rescue and foster new  dogs. So if the foster home rejects an applicant already approved by an AMBCR rescuer, there’s a good chance that additional support or assistance will be provided to place the dog. The dog will become the foster home’s total responsibility to either keep as their own dog or to privately adopt on their own.

Please direct any questions about foster care to the rescuer closest to you, for whom you are volunteering. Or you can e-mail Myra Soden at or call (540) 552-6655 (evenings before 9:00 p.m. please).