RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Animal Care and Control hopes to have each animal in the shelter “home for the holidays” this Thanksgiving.

The shelter’s Thanksgiving foster program allows shelter dogs and cats to leave the shelter and spend the holiday surrounded by food, warmth, and people in a temporary foster home until Dec. 2.

In 2019, the program found about 94 pets a safe, cozy place to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Richmond Animal Care and Control Director Christie Chipps-Peters described why this holiday foster program is so important.

“No one should spend thanksgiving alone. Holidays are hard for people, sometimes,” Chipps-Peters said. “Those that have had a loss in their life, or maybe they don’t feel like celebrating the holidays this year, they want to stay home not talk to anybody, that would be the perfect solution to have a pet with you that would love you throughout the whole time and make the holidays a little brighter.”

Opening one’s home to one of these animals is entirely free. The shelter provides the pet and resources, as long as the temporary foster parents is willing to provide the home and love from Nov. 20 through Dec. 2. If the foster parent intends to keep the foster animal after adoption, that individual or family is given first pick of which pet they want to house for Thanksgiving.

This program can often be a gateway to adoption. According to Chipps-Peters, approximately 50% of the pets that enter foster care don’t return to the shelter — their foster families end up being their forever families.

“It’s a really wonderful solution to our overcrowding in the shelter,” Chipps-Peters said.

The program is open to those who aren’t traveling for the holidays and who don’t have other pets. Taking the shelter dogs and cats out of Richmond Animal Care and Control’s facility temporarily allows staff to deep-clean the shelter and prepare for the animal’s returns. However, it also allows staff members to enjoy their holidays.

Additionally, Chipps-Peters emphasized how the pets are the primary focus in this program. Allowing them to temporarily stay in a local home helps staff members learn critical information about the pets temperament and behavior outside of a cage, inside of a home — while creating a secure, exciting, and memorable experience for the animals in-need.

“They would love nothing more than to sleep in a cozy bed, or have a cozy couch, or really delicious thanksgiving meal,” Chipps-Peters said.

For more information on how to get involved, contact christie.peters@rva.gov.