Weekender program for dogs? SPCA weighs in

Posted at 5:25 AM, Apr 24, 2018

A so-called "weekender" program for dogs at a Milwaukee shelter is gaining steam. It allows foster families to take in dogs for a weekend, and return them to the shelter on Sunday.

As profiled by our sister station WTMJ, Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission started a Weekenders Club for adoptable dogs. Potential pet parents can pick up a dog on Friday afternoon, along with a bag of supplies and a kennel. The MADACC encourages weekenders to take the dog for walks and interact with the dog to see if there's an adoption match. If not, the dog is returned ot the shelter on Sunday.

The shelter says the weekend away is good for the dog. It's executive director cites studies showing dogs' stress levels go down from leaving the kennel for a little while.

The program differs greatly from typical foster care programs, so we took questions about more common foster situations to the SPCA Serving Erie County.

"Here, we treat our foster situations very differently," said Gina Browning, Chief Communications Officer of the SPCA Serving Erie County. "We have animals who come in who need temporary housing for a specific reason."

Those reasons can include a dog or cat with specific medical needs that would be difficult to meet in a kennel, such as cage rest following surgery or a cat nursing kittens. Stays in foster care can range from several weeks to a couple of months.

Volunteer foster families are matched with animals based on their ability to fit that specific animal's medical or behavioral needs. At the end of the foster period, foster families are given the first priority for adoption. Foster animals can include dogs, cats and smaller animals like rabbits. You can find out more about becoming a foster volunteer here.

As for starting a "Weekenders Club" in Erie County, Browning says a lot more research would need to happen before it's considered. 

"This one would be a tough sell for us." Browning says "our experience is that that transition from a home to a shelter is a drastic change for an animal, and in our experience it's a difficult change and it actually increases an animal's stress level."

The SPCA would have to take a close look at studies cited by the Milwaukee program, and watch the success rate of the program itself.

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