Families Inviting Shelter Dogs Into Their Homes For Thanksgiving As Part Of Innovative Foster Program

Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together, so why not include a shelter animal in the festivities? That’s what Richmond Animal Care & Control (RACC) in Virginia thought when it created their annual “Thanksgiving Foster” drive, an event where people can invite a foster animal into their home for Thanksgiving.

Now in its fifth year, RACC is hoping for a “record number of animals spend the holiday out of the shelter.” Last year they had 94 animals in foster for Thanksgiving and they want to “empty the shelter” this year.


Participation in the program is very simple. “You host a RACC pet (dog or cat) for the Thanksgiving Holiday, shower them with love and snuggles and try to find them a forever home with friends and relatives or you; we do not judge if you foster fail-frankly we encourage it!” RACC explains on Facebook.

One of RACC’s dogs available for adoption. Photo: RACC / Ashley Dobbin Calkins

Families are welcome to participate but the shelter also put out a special request. “We need families with no other pets or kids the most this year as we have so many dogs that need one on one time so please talk your kidless/pupless friends into participating.”


The program is the brainchild of Christie Chipps Peters, shelter director of RACC. She was thinking about how family and friends gather together for Thanksgiving – but for homeless animals it is just another day in the shelter, another day without a home. But what if it didn’t have to be?

She thought perhaps RACC could ask people to invite shelter animals over to their Thanksgiving dinners. They would provide each foster family with all they needed to care for the pet – food, medication (if needed) and a crate. Families are asked to keep the dog or cat for a week-long stay, after which the animal comes back to the shelter, if the family decided not to adopt them, which many do.

Peters asked the community what they thought and she quickly had received 35 invitations. That was four years ago. Every year the event continues to be a success, with many homeless pets finding homes at the end of their Thanksgiving stays. As added incentive, the shelter waives the adoption fee if the family wants to keep the pet. Removing the barriers to adoption has proven immensely successful.

One year more than half of the animals were adopted by the family, or friends of the family, after they were fostered. Last year, one such dog was Miss Belle.

Eva Gilliland shared a pic of her “foster failure” from last year, commenting on Facebook, “My foster failure from last Thanksgiving. Miss Belle.”

And another dog just fit right in when she visited for Thanksgiving. Ka’DeeDee Harris said on Facebook: “Soon as I brought her (on the right) home last year she was attached to all of us…she had to stay in the family.”

And it’s not just dogs, either. “My foster failures from last year! Best decision I made!” commented Alexandra Francis.

“It’s a fun twist to a traditional fostering situation for people who might’ve never done it before,” Peters told the Dodo in 2018 of the program. She said that the shelter gets wonderful feedback from the community. “The emails we get from people are so great. They run from, ‘I’m here in Virginia on work and my family’s far away — I’d love to have a friend to cook with for Thanksgiving’ to messages like, ‘We just lost our Labrador of 13 years and we have an empty house now … We’d love nothing more than to have a pet here for the holiday.’ It’s just a feel-good moment as the city shelter that we can open this up for people who love animals.”

This is such a fantastic idea, we hope more shelters adopt similar programs in their communities.

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