Pet owners, present author not excluded, love to full-on gush about the joys that four-legged friends bring to our lives. While The Florentine’s print and online pet special is primarily a celebratory tribute to our community’s critters, we’d be remiss not to say that adopting an animal is a serious undertaking—one that requires considerable emotional, financial and, in many cases, physical commitment (read: waking up at 5am and slipping on your walking shoes if Fido requires it). Perhaps you can’t yet take the plunge into full-time ownership, but are craving the comfort and sense of purpose a pet provides. Maybe you’re an animal lover who wants to help out Florence’s strays or surrendered pets, but your timeline in Tuscany is finite or uncertain. If something in those descriptions resonates, fostering might be for you.
Providing a temporary home to an animal through fostering, referred to as tenere in stallo by Italian volunteers, is an area in which the recently established animal adoption association Orme Libere odv can always use help. Orme Libere is run by two young and industrious animal lovers, Maria Scacchetti, president and chief of all cat adoptions, and Gloria Marceddu, vice president and manager of the dog delegation. Both women are veteran volunteers who’ve overseen domestic animal adoptions through assorted channels for years, but just officially founded their own organization, where their emphasis is on “conscious adoptions,” finding homes for animals in “contexts that are compatible with both the individual animal and the characteristics of its species, aspects that are often overlooked,” Marceddu says. Due in part to its lack of a physical headquarters, Orme Libere is perpetually seeking foster “parents” who can shield rescue animals from overflowing shelters while they wait for their permanent homes.
It bears mentioning that while not a long-haul commitment, fostering is far from just an extended play date with a cute pet. Although Orme Libere volunteers cover basic expenses (food, vaccinations, veterinary care, and essential supplies), you are responsible for giving the animal a good home and meeting his or her exercise needs until a “forever family” is found. Publicity and the nuts and bolts of the animal’s definitive adoption are managed by Orme Libere, but you may have to be present for visits or provide information to prospective adopters. In the cases of senior animals, larger dogs, and pets with disabilities—all for whom there is sadly minimal demand, according to Marceddu—this can be a drawn-out process.
If you rent your home, communicating openly with your landlord about the temporary agreement is essential, as keeping it from him or her could cause conflicts and, in extreme cases, result in the pet being moved to another “halfway house,” which can be traumatizing for the animal. While Italian law prohibits condominiums from banning pets, individual leases can have a “no animals” stipulation, so read yours and then read it again. According to Florence-based lawyer Daniel Boni, removing a domestic animal from the premises is not something that a landlord can swiftly accomplish legally, if the tenant is the pet’s legitimate owner. But when fostering, you’re not Fluffy’s bona-fide guardian, so the rule of healthy tenant-landlord relations reigns supreme.
Prospective foster “parents” can send a Facebook message to Orme Libere to express interest, or phone the numbers listed on specific posts. (If this seems rather informal, you still have a screening process to look forward to). In my own experience of fostering a dog for the organization prior to its current incarnation, this translated to a thorough questionnaire typically used ahead of permanent adoptions, assessing the viability of my home, schedule, willingness to tweak said schedule, and finances. While such documents can seem needlessly hairsplitting, they require forethought on how circumstances might change and reflection on one’s motives, which ultimately deters impulsive decisions—a worthwhile exercise, particularly if you’re considering fostering as a stepping stone or test drive ahead of full pet ownership.
This segues us perfectly into a well-documented phenomenon: the Foster Failure. I was not immune, falling in love with my 11-year-old foster Miró (pictured above), a goofy Maltese-tinged mutt with the name of a painter and the soul of a puppy. Should you be considering fostering, know that there’s never any expectation or pressure on you to definitively adopt, but hey, if the collar fits…
Interested in learning more about fostering, adoptions and Orme Libere’s goals? The association will host an informational fundraising aperitivo (registration required) on November 30 at Il Vegano.