At its largest, the foster program at Safe Harbor Equine and Livestock Sanctuary in Cottontown, TN, comprised more than 50 families. The all-volunteer agency discovered that number was a bit unwieldy and scaled back the number of fosters to make the program more manageable. Currently, the agency has 29 foster families, allowing them to triple their lifesaving capacity.
Read on to find out what other lessons the agency has learned along the way.
1) Communicate effectively
According to Sariah Hopkins, executive director, “When Safe Harbor had 50 foster families, we struggled with getting information from foster homes, which meant we couldn’t adequately represent the horses to adopters, effectively coordinate training for the horses or comfortably delegate adoption responsibilities to those foster homes.” Hopkins says they solved the communication problem with additional training.
2) Use a computer system to track adoption applications
Tracking the applications can be overwhelming. Safe Harbor created an Excel file called "Application Tracker” in which volunteers record important information about the status of each application. The organization also tracks the days to adoption approval and days to closure (application either declined or animal adopted), which allows them to assess the process over time.
3) Get everything in writing
To make sure everyone is in agreement when it comes to fostering and adopting, Safe Harbor relies on a lot of written documents.
4) Make training easy
Training can be critical for a successful adoption. Making horse training services easy and affordable can mean the difference between a horse staying in the home or being returned. Safe Harbor provides options for their adopters, including training rebates and a list of trainers.
5) Make adopters feel like heroes
Adoption is an emotional experience, and adopters are invested in the process and proud to have saved a life. Honor that deed by providing them with an Adoption Certificate.
6) Rejoice in saving the hard cases
Hopkins loves sharing the success story of Jade, a 29-year-old quarter horse, one year shy of being “unadoptable” and placed in Safe Harbor’s sanctuary program for horses over 30. At the emaciated equine’s seizure, the attending vet recommended euthanasia. But Jade was a fighter, and Hopkins had a hunch about the horse, who miraculously made a full recovery.
Jade was then placed with an Adoption Ambassador, who took her to the Middle Tennessee Open Horse Show. At the show, Jade wore an "I'm Adoptable" halter and participated in a horsemanship competition with her four-year-old rider, Olivia. The pair took home the 1st place ribbon in their leadline class, and within a week, Jade had three adoption applications.
“The little old lady—who we thought might be ‘unadoptable’ and who a veterinarian said could not be saved—is now owned and loved by an amazing little boy who is going to continue his riding lessons, thanks to the Adoption Ambassadors program. She will likely retire in a couple of years, but her new family is just fine with that, and committed to loving and caring for her through her later senior years,” says Hopkins.