The Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter began its “Love at Home” foster care program earlier this month to provide individualized aid for rescued dogs awaiting adoption.

The program lets foster families take in canines that are underage, sick, pregnant or in need of special assistance for a span of one to eight weeks. Two Volunteer Foster Coordinators will educate temporary caretakers on general foster home requirements and specific training for their particular dog.

According to CAS Director of Animal Services Jan Glick, the program increases adoption rates and reduces the shelter’s surplus of dogs.

“The Santa Barbara shelter is very crowded,” Glick said. “It is overcrowded with dogs, and a foster care program can provide relief for overcrowding and outreach into the community to help get these animals adopted.”

Although similar homecare systems already exist at the shelter, Glick said the new program specifies canines to reduce difficulties finding short-term homes.

“Lots of active volunteers at our shelters looked over our policies to come up with ways to reenergize our program,” Glick said. “We have foster parents but they’re getting tired because they’re doing so much. This particular program is for dogs, but we are in need of homes for cats, dogs and rabbits.”

Foster homes provide the dogs with a healthier alternative than living in the shelter, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health Administrator Susan Klein-Rothschild.

“I think it’s fantastic when more animals can be provided care in family homes in lieu of kennels, where there are so many animals,” Klein-Rothschild said. “Animals in foster homes get one-on-one attention, different environments and more exercise, just because the family only has one or two dogs to care for and not a lot of them.”

Third-year environmental studies major Kaitlin Carney said students in the area should consider the shelter before purchasing pets from local stores or breeders.

“It’s important that if you’re capable of taking a dog, even temporarily, you should because there are a lot of dogs in bad situations,” Carney said.

Klein-Rothschild said temporarily housing dogs teaches youths the importance of proper care for their furry friends.

“It’s great that people consider caring for an animal and becoming a foster parent,” Klein-Rothschild said. “It is a great way to prepare an animal for adoption and it’s great for themselves too — it is a win-win. I hope some students consider it.”

According to Glick, the program allows caring individuals unable to make long-term commitments a chance to temporarily connect with an animal.

“It’s a nice way to be able to offer animal care without making a long term commitment,” Glick said. “It is a huge lifesaving activity, so people can feel good about being foster parents. It helps animals be adopted.”