September 24, 2020

ABA launches Foster Program Pro Bono Project to help animal shelters during COVID-19

CHICAGO, Sept. 24, 2020 — The ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice’s Animal Law Committee has established a nationwide Foster Program Pro Bono Project to provide legal support to empower animal shelters who currently do not have foster programs to place animals in foster care, and to strengthen existing foster programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of social-distancing measures in response to COVID-19, animal shelters in affected areas are closing to the public. They are also in danger of losing the availability of shelter staff and volunteers to care for animals at the shelter. At the same time, the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 may cause people to surrender more animals to shelters. Without the ability to host adoption events, with increased intake of animals, and without optimal support from staff and volunteers, animals in shelters may face long stays, a decrease in quality of care, and/or increased rates of euthanasia.

Foster programs (i.e., temporary housing of animals in the homes of volunteers) can help support shelters, their staff and the animals they serve. Some shelters and municipal pounds do not currently run foster programs. Other shelters have foster programs that would benefit from legal advice. Using a tool kit of legal tools (including a template foster care agreement), pro bono volunteers through this project would be paired with animal shelters in their state to provide legal advice on relevant topics to support foster programs.

The tool kit includes five documents that have been posted online. The documents include a shelter sign-up form questions, state foster home laws and regulations, foster care agreement template, foster care application template and a website for pro bono foster opportunities.

“Pro bono legal advice can assist organizations in making necessary changes to transition to community-based sheltering, said Rebecca Huss, general counsel of Best Friends Animal Society and co-chair of the working group for the project. “This project has been structured to allow any lawyer comfortable with contracts, even if they can only make a limited time commitment, to make a real difference in the lives of people and animals in their community.”

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