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SPCA animals need foster parents

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Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Pat Almeida stands with a foster care cat in her back yard. More foster care homes are needed.

By KATIE HALL
Living and Leisure Editor

When Pat Almeida brought home tiny kittens Eeny, Miney and Mo, (no Meeny) they hid under her entertainment center for a day.
“With Eeny and Miney, they said, ‘Get away, I don’t want anything to do with you’… When they realized I was nice, they wouldn’t leave me alone,” said the Cortland woman.
Almeida was patient, and cared for the little babies for the Cortland County SPCA until they were ready for new homes. Eeny and Miney got adopted right away, she said. Mo is being looked at by a possible owner.
Almeida, a foster co-coordinator at the SPCA, said the McLean Road animal shelter needs more people to volunteer for its foster care program — taking care of animals until they are ready to be adopted out. People who are home all day would be ideal, but working people are welcome to volunteer as well. “It all depends on the situation,” Almeida said.
“It’s fun. It’s a great experience for kids if mom and dad are there. It makes them more aware of some of the problems in the world and that you can have an impact,” Almeida said. Kittens and puppies are especially fun to watch develop.
Around 10 people are providing care now for cats and dogs, but their homes are full. Another 20 volunteers would be ideal, Almeida said.
“You don’t need to know how to train, you just need common sense and lots of love — lots of love,” said the retired schoolteacher.
Almeida is in charge of dogs who need foster care while Jan Robinson, the other co-coordinator, oversees the cats in need at the shelter.
Animals that typically need foster care are:
l puppies and kittens, sometimes newly born, who are too young for adoption
animals that need to be socialized; and
dogs or cats who are recovering from surgery, illness or injury.
“Every situation is different,” Almeida said.
People who are interested can call the SPCA at (607) 753-9386 and leave a message. It will be returned. Volunteers fill out an application. The SPCA makes a home visit to get an overview on what’s available for the animal, Almeida said.  “We need to talk with the family.” If a person is approved, they receive a short orientation. The SPCA provides vaccinations for all animals, basic medical care such as injected fluids, flea and ear mite treatment and antibiotics and special diet food if necessary.
Bill Carr, the humane officer at the SPCA, is fostering “Daniel,” a 3-year-old beagle, because of the lack of foster homes. Daniel’s previous owner gave the animal to the shelter. “They called me. They wanted to put him down,” Carr said.
The dog is a gentle creature who appeared to have a neck or back injury, walking stiffly.
Carr said to himself, “You know what, he should have the benefit of an examination.”
Cornell veterinarians diagnosed him with “Beagle Pain Syndrome,” Carr said. The dog experiences pain along his back and needs more protein in his system. Vets gave him a hormone treatment and at the time of the interview, it was still too early to see if it had made a difference. Daniel also receives extra fluids administered by a needle, which Carr said is not a big deal to do.
Carr, who works during the day, would like a foster volunteer to come forward, hopefully a person who can be at home with him. He’d like to see Daniel adopted out. He’s taken care of Daniel for over a month and says he’s a real sweetheart.
A typical stay in foster care is two to four weeks, but every situation is different. People with animals can provide foster care, but they have to exercise caution introducing their dogs to the SPCA animal, Almeida said. She advises cats to be cared for in a separate room. Compassionate adults who are responsible are sought.
You get to see a good ending to something that didn’t start out that way,” said Carr.
He noted a cat he took out of an abandoned house. “He was just emaciated.”  
“It just blows my mind to see him doing that much better.”
“He still needs a home,” said Almeida.