UT students foster pets during storm, boil notice

Libby Cohen

While the rain over the past two weeks kept people inside, foster animals from Austin shelters were separated by three walls and a chain link fence from the low temperatures and precipitation.

Animal shelters like Austin Pets Alive! (APA!) and Austin Animal Center blasted their social media accounts, pleading for Austinites to foster their sheltered animals after cyclical rain and flooding. These pleas reached some UT students, as they now have the rain to thank for their new companions. While the flood waters did not reach damaging levels, this potential crisis in turn helped the shelters put their pets into the dry homes of UT students.

While the water crisis puts a strain on the shelters, Jennifer Olohan, communications and media manager at Austin Animal Center, said that people are more likely to open their homes in a time of need.

“We have more people fostering right now because we asked for help and let the community know the situation we’re in,” Olohan said. “There may be people who are more inclined to foster or help in times of crisis, like the flooding or water quality issue, but for the most part we just really let everyone know how we needed their help, and they’ve stepped up.”

Aerospace engineering senior Hannah Rens said she had never fostered a pet before now, but was touched by these outreach efforts. She adopted Sweetie, a black lab mix, on Friday, Oct. 19 from APA!.

“Sweetie herself is the most outstanding, well trained, loving dog I have ever met in my life, and she cannot thrive in a shelter like that,” Rens said.

Being greeted by a smiling face every time she walks through the door is one of Rens’ favorite parts of her first fostering experience, she said.

Olohan said that students are ideal foster parents because fostering provides a temporary experience with the responsibility of pet ownership while providing safer conditions for the animals.

“It takes them longer to recover in the shelter because of how the stress affects their immune system,” Olohan said.

Plan II senior Rachel Vopne, another first time foster, opened her home to Holden, a German Shepherd mix, last week to help the alleviate pressures put on by the excessive rain.

Vopne also said she believes UT students should consider pet fostering due to student availability.

“I think students are great foster candidates because we do have such flexible schedules,” Vopne said. ”It’s a great way to help let the animals have a home and family until they’re adopted and clear space in shelters so no-kill shelters like Austin Pets Alive! can save more animals from kill shelters.”

The only problem presented by these students was getting their new companions adjusted to the West Campus lifestyle. Rens said Sweetie’s fear of heights made getting her up and down five flights of stairs an initial obstacle.

Rens says she put aside the challenges of re-adjusting schedules and providing clean water with the boil notification in order to give Sweetie higher chances of adoption.

While Austin’s citizens were inconvenienced by the rainfall throughout October, the water crisis provided foster dogs like Sweetie and Holden temporary homes with UT students in better living conditions.