This Christmas, volunteers across Rock County are putting out extra bowls for their guests.
If the guests are truly being good boys or good girls, they might even get treats or bones to gnaw on.
The guests? The dogs and cats cared for by foster families.
The hosts? Ordinary people who are willing to provide temporary care for animals before they go to their forever homes.
The foster care system used by animal welfare organizations has been in the news lately—most recently in the case of a dog that needed special care after it was burned in a scalding-hot shower. Foster families help rescue organizations do their jobs by caring for animals as volunteers, not as paid employees.
Friends of Noah, an all-breed rescue organization, has no building and relies completely on a network of foster homes. The number of animals it can help depends on the number of foster homes it has.
“We really need more foster families,” said Sue Showers, adoption coordinator for the dogs that come to Friends of Noah.
Friends of Noah accepts strays and some surrendered animals and helps other animal shelters that are at capacity. The group recently took in a dog from the Adams County Humane Society, Showers said.
Foster families pay for the animal’s food, while Friends of Noah pays for spaying or neutering, microchipping and all shots and treatments an animal needs.
Showers estimates that food and treats for a dog or cat could range from $25 to $50 a month.
Before a dog joins Friends of Noah’s foster care system, Lori Rockwell, a veterinarian and dog behavior specialist, meets the animal.
“We try not to take any dogs with aggression issues,” Showers said.
Many people say they can’t foster animals—not because it’s financially difficult, but because they fear they would get too attached.
“A lot of people say, ‘I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give them up,’” Showers said. “It is hard. I usually cry for days when they go.”
Showers has fostered 18 dogs.
“Fostering is one of the hardest things you will ever do, but it’s also one of the most rewarding,” she said. “You take this scared and homeless animal and see him transformed. You’ve made it a better pet.”
Dog foster families usually end up keeping their animals for about three months. The length of stay for cats varies. Mounds Petfood Warehouse has an adoption center for Friends of Noah cats. If there’s an opening at Mounds, a cat might be in foster care for only two weeks.
Foster families might hate to part with their animals, but they know the animal is going to a good home.
“We really research the people who are going to be adopting the animals,” Showers said.
The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin has a shelter but uses foster care for kittens and dogs with special needs, such as kennel stress or an illness.
“It really saves a lot of lives,” said Brett Frazier, executive director.
The society’s most recent foster care arrival is an 11-month-old golden retriever from Beloit. The dog suffered severe burns after its owner blasted it with scalding water in the shower.
Foster care has helped reduced the society’s already low euthanization numbers, Frazier said.
For example, many humane societies euthanize dogs that come in with distemper or parvovirus. Now those dogs can be sent to a foster home to get better without endangering other dogs, he said.
“We went from having about a zero percent save rate to having about an 85 percent save rate for those dogs,” Frazier said.
Foster families also care for kittens. Some need to be bottle-fed, and others need to be acclimated to people.
Frazier has seen kittens that are nearly feral become “purring machines” after a week in foster care.
The humane society pays for vet care and food.
Foxconn Technology Group may as well be on Wisconsin ballots next fall.
The top Democrat in the state Assembly said he will use the state’s $3 billion incentive deal with the Taiwanese company against Republicans in next year’s campaign. His GOP counterpart said that strategy marks a political mistake that will backfire.
Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said he is working on compiling a list of highway projects that will be delayed so work can be done on roads near Foxconn’s planned liquid crystal display panel plant in Mt. Pleasant. He’ll report his findings to Assembly Republicans and their constituents, he said.
“We’re going to go directly into their districts once we get those lists of projects and we’re going to call them out for supporting a project that takes money directly out of their districts to hand to a company that we’ve already given $3 billion of taxpayer commitment to,” Hintz said in an interview.
“So I think once we ratchet up the heat, I’m pretty sure that their constituents and taxpayers throughout the state are not very excited about raiding funds to pay for Foxconn.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Democrats were mischaracterizing the deal for political advantage. He called Foxconn a “huge searchlight to the entire world” that shows Wisconsin is a great place to base a business.
“Instead they’re trying to say, ‘Stay away. Don’t come to Wisconsin. We suck,’ ” Vos said. “Why in the world would you want that to be the message for any job creator either in our state or outside our state’s boundaries when we want to draw in more investment, more people?
“So I think it is a tactical mistake ... it is entirely crassly political.”
He said Republicans have plenty to campaign on next year—the biggest investment in public schools in the state’s history, a growing rainy-day fund and a years-long freeze on in-state tuition at UW colleges.
“I can see why they wouldn’t want to talk about any of the topics that are actually salient, because none of them work for them,” Vos said.
Republicans control the Assembly 63-35. Democrats hope to begin to dig themselves out of the minority in 2018.
They also hope a U.S. Supreme Court decision next year will go their way to require new maps of legislative districts. Republicans drew the election maps in 2011 and they greatly favor their party.
Foxconn is also expected to be a top issue in the races for governor and state Senate.
GOP Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers in September approved the Foxconn deal, which will provide the firm up to $2.85 billion in cash payments over 15 years, provided it meets benchmarks for creating jobs and investing in the plant. The company is also eligible for a $150 million break on sales taxes.
Walker has said he expects the Foxconn deal to become more popular as the project gets underway.
More than a dozen opponents are running in the Democratic primary for governor, and they’re uniformly against the Foxconn package.
Those candidates are banking on the deal being unpopular, particularly in areas outside southeastern Wisconsin. Republicans counter that hundreds of businesses across Wisconsin are seeking to be Foxconn suppliers.
Among those businesses are ones in the backyards of Democratic candidates for governor such as state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma.
local • 2A-3A
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nation/world • 9B
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