Foster care system

In our foster care system, volunteers take care of dogs at their home temporarily. Animal protection groups which have no shelters are largely dependent on this system. Tokyo ARK has been using this system successfully for a long time thanks to the helps of many foster families. However, there are virtually no foster families currently available for Osaka ARK.

The ARK headquarters in Nose-cho, Osaka Prefecture, has facilities to protect and keep animals, and there are always about 500 animals there. There are also just under 30 staff members, including those who work in the office and do maintenance work. Each staff member is assigned specific duties and non-work days are taken in rotation. But if asked whether all animals are being taken care of sufficiently, we can’t really say “yes” confidently.

The words, “If only there were foster families for Osaka ARK…” are often heard among the staff, who take care of animals under the cold sky of Nose.


Here is a story about four puppies rescued one day. Because their mother is a stray dog, the puppies inherited her habits and fears, and were very afraid of humans and extremely scared of being touched. If this attitude does not change, their lives with potential adopters will be a difficult one, and neither dogs nor adopters will be able to live happily together. Clearly, they need to get used to humans and be socialized.

We consulted Tsuda-sensei of KENKEN CLUB, who is always helpful in giving us advice on dog training. She gave us detailed advice, but the staff member in charge of these puppies was already flooded with other tasks and unable to devote the time to the socialization training. The puppies are young, and every single day in this growing up phase is precious and can have a major effect on their future. But all the while, we feel impatient, powerless, and guilty about all of the things we can’t do for them. Then what crosses our minds is the foster family system.


Although no special qualifications are required to become a foster family, ARK’s policies must be followed. Foster families also bear a certain degree of responsibility in terms of time and expense. A foster family is selected after a thorough consultation and assessment.

More attention is necessary when fostering puppies, because puppies are delicate and susceptible to diseases, and because their future personalities are formed during this time. Major conditions for a foster family are minimal “home alone” time for the animal, adherence to ARK’s policies such as health control, medical treatment, and euthanasia, and ability to take the fostered animal to ARK or ARK’s veterinarian for medical examinations and sterilization, or for meeting with a potential adopter. Therefore, the foster family should live within 1 to 1½ hour’s drive of ARK.

In some cases, a fostered animal develops a contagious disease, or some disorder is suddenly discovered while a puppy is growing. When this happens, we carefully examine the quality of life of the dog based on the vet’s diagnosis, and might resort to euthanasia if determined necessary. In some cases, letting them live is not the best choice. Nobody knows what will happen in the future and this is a very hard decision to make, but the family has to agree to follow our decision in order to start fostering a dog.

Euthanasia is hard in every case. The decision to euthanize a puppy is particularly shocking, and pains us ARK staff greatly. The foster family, therefore, has to be strong enough to be prepared for the possibility that the dog might face such a situation. I myself foster some dogs, and I think I am prepared.


Hmm…having read this, no one’s going to want to volunteer to become a foster family! Yet this is an important matter which I have no option other than to convey to you all, in view of all the lives that would be snuffed out without our rescuing them.

While fostering a dog can be hard sometimes, I can’t express in words the joy you experience when the dog finds an adopter. This is quite rewarding and fulfilling. Not only are you able to make the dog happy, but you yourself become happy. The foster care system is so great because it feels like your circle of happiness is widening to include more family or relatives.

Because there is no free space at ARK to keep extra dogs, we sometimes cannot even take in nice dogs who are friendly to humans and other dogs, even though they seem likely to find a new owner right away. With the foster care system, we can save these dogs’ lives. This is volunteer work any family can start easily once they make it clear what kinds of dogs or cats would be suitable for their home. I personally think those retired and active seniors who cannot have a dog for its entire life, but have a plenty of time to spend would be an ideal family.

The foster care system is basically a new frontier for Osaka ARK. We are still in the trial and error stage, and there are many issues to overcome, but we hope to make it work.

On February 24 (Sun), Wreath will join the meeting at Green Dog, too!
Other prospective participants include: Wombat, Non-chan, and Totoro
(Subject to change depending on the dogs’ condition and other reasons.)
For details, click here.

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