04/13/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Homeless Pets Find Temporary Refuge With Volunteers

What happens to pets that are down and out during the recession? As many families have been forced to give up their furry friends during tough economic times, animal service agencies are turning to volunteers to fill the gap animals face between abandonment and a new adoption.

The Boston Globe reports that people are temporarily caring for animals that are not ready to be adopted because they are too young, sick or injured, or have behavioral issues.

Typically, the agency provides food, litter, and medical care for the foster animals. The families, which are screened before being accepted into a foster program, agree to surrender their charges when they are ready to be adopted, although they can also adopt an animal through the normal process.

"We call that 'flunking fostering,' '' Margaret Kinsella, foster care manager at the shelter on Broad Street in Quincy, said with a laugh.

Fostering pets can take as long as a few days or up to 6 months, depending on the reason the pet is in foster care. The majority of animals in foster programs are cats because they are easier to place, but there are also dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets who need temporary homes. The program appeals to volunteers who can't make long-term commitments to care or pay for a pet.

You can read the full story about how locals in Boston are stepping up to help at The Boston Globe. To find out how you can foster a pet or find a foster program near you, visit the SPCA Web site or find a shelter near you.