UT students help pets find furr-ever homes

Kenzie Kowalski

Time is a valuable commodity in college, but some UT students are giving back to the community by spending their free time fostering animals.

To alleviate overflow and sickness strain on shelters, some UT students double as volunteer fosters, caring for pets until adoption. In collaboration with no-kill animal shelter Austin Pets Alive!, students fit fostering pets into their hectic college schedules.

Austin Pets Alive! had 2,199 animals in their care by the end of 2018, according to their website. One of these was a pitbull mix named Alicia, who Brianna Hungate, applied learning and development junior, began fostering in September 2018.

Alicia came to Hungate very sick, but Hungate said she was able to nurse the dog back to health before her adoption in November 2018.

“She had parvo, which is a disease that most shelters kill for, but (Austin Pets Alive!) is awesome, and (they) provided meds and support, and they were always there when I needed them,” Hungate said. “Just having a warm place, food and love made all the difference, plus the medicine of course.”

Although her foster experience had ups and downs, Hungate said she leaned on friends and Austin Pets Alive! for support. She recommends fostering to other students as well.

“Have your friends, people that you can lean on and that can help you out with it sometimes when it gets tough,” Hungate said.

Despite the time and special care Alicia needed, Hungate said that she would do it again.

“It’s about sacrifices sometimes, but the end result was so amazing and having that responsibility and coming back every day to see the happy face and wagging tail, it made such a difference in my overall mental health,” Hungate said. “It was such a big responsibility (to) take on, but it was worth it.”

Architectural engineering sophomore Colleen Jones has been fostering a cat named Merrill since September 2018. Jones said the “chunky, little 8-year-old cat” was put into foster care because she wasn’t thriving in the shelter environment.

“(Merrill) was 13 pounds when I got her,” Jones said. “I picked her up and basically they were like, ‘Hey, thanks for fostering her, please put her on a diet.’”

While also balancing schoolwork, Jones has helped Merrill get on a regular diet, lose weight and become healthier. Jones said taking care of Merrill has made her more responsible.

“She’s helped me become more consistent, a little more responsible and (she reminds me to) take care of myself,” Jones said. “I think ahead a little more about what I’m doing.”

Katera Berent, communications and events manager for Austin Pets Alive!, said UT students make up a large percentage of their fosters.

“(The students are) just so dedicated to (fostering), and it’s really amazing,” Berent said. “I feel like our students come out in droves to foster for us, and it’s just so appreciated.”

Without the help of UT students, Berent said the shelter would not be able to save as many lives as it does.

“Our foster program is essential to our lifesaving operations here at Austin Pets Alive!,” Berent said. “We have a lot of animals that we (take in) that we would not be able to take into our care if it weren’t for foster homes.”