Thunder Bay

Shortage of foster homes strains animal rescue efforts in northwestern Ontario

Staff at animal rescues in the Thunder Bay, Ont., region are growing more tired as requests keep piling up for homes for animals. The increase has made it more difficult to find foster homes for the animals before heading off to their forever homes.

Agencies say number of people applying for foster care lags behind number of animals needing homes

Woman holding kitten.
A volunteer with Kitty Kare holds a rescue kitten. The Thunder Bay, Ont.-based organization finds homes for cats and kittens. (Submitted by Carol Rasmussen )

Pet rescue organizations serving northwestern Ontario say they can't find enough foster homes for the number of animals coming into rescue. 

Dogs and cats are consistently being rescued and brought into the Thunder Bay region, overwhelming local volunteer-run groups dedicated to re-homing them. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some organizations say the influx has been even more difficult to manage.

Kitty Kare and Northern Critters in Need are two local non-profits that say they've been struggling to find enough foster homes and resources to keep up with the need. The fosters' role is to provide temporary care for animals before they're adopted.

Kitty Kare was started in 2010 by Carol Rasmussen and other founders. The organization focuses solely on assisting cats and kittens find safe homes, temporarily and indefinitely. 

Rasmussen said she's specifically noticed an increase in the number of animals ending up in rescue, and she attributes it to several factors, including the impact of the pandemic. 

"I think it's a combination of many things. It can be the cost of having a pet, the cost of spaying and neutering, not having a vet … but a lot of different issues [began] since COVID," Rasmussen said. 

Dedicated volunteers make it all possible

Northern Critters in Need is another non-profit that began its work about 10 years ago. It serves an area stretching from Dryden to Sault Ste. Marie, taking in animals in need of a home and caring for them until they're adopted. 

Dee Larocque, who lives in Thunder Bay, has been volunteering with the different organizations for close to 15 years, and often fosters animals at her home. Larocque said that with so many animals and not enough foster homes, her volunteer work has morphed into a round-the-clock job. 

Woman sitting with two dogs.
Dee Larocque fosters animals with Northern Critters In Need. She also has two dogs of her own, and fostered, then adopted, Emma (white terrier mix). Later, Emma had a litter of pups, including Zuko (black terrier mix). (Submitted by Dee Laroque )

"There is just an endless amount of requests, it seems, to help animals, and not a lot of resources," she said, explaining the high number of animals needing care also strains the budgets of rescue organizations. 

Larocque said all her work at Northern Critters in Need is done for the love of animals. She currently has one foster dog, a mama cat and her two kittens, three semi feral cats in her home, and a paralyzed cat in addition to her own two dogs that she has adopted from fostering. Although it can be difficult to let animals go once they are adopted, Larocque said volunteering to foster is also rewarding. 

There is just an endless amount of requests, it seems, to help animals, and not a lot of resources.- Dee Larocque

She hopes people will open up their homes just as she did to the adventure and unconditional love that comes from fostering vulnerable animals, if not at Northern Critters in Need, then at any rescue, she said.

Members of Kitty Kare also stress that fostering an animal can be a big commitment, but they do their best to support foster homes with supplies needed to care for the animal. They also take into consideration what the volunteer is looking for in a cat before matching an animal with a foster home. 

"We always like to get the cat for you that is a good fit," Rasmussen said. 

She encourages people who are curious about fostering to reach out to discuss the possibilities. There's no financial cost to fostering, she said, and agencies are mainly concerned about a secure home. 

Rasmussen said support does not always have to involve fostering, but can come in the form of donations, including giving your time at a fundraising event, offering supplies and food, or contributing money that would go directly to providing veterinary costs for rescue animals. 


Sara Kae


Sara Kae is an Ojibway/Cree reporter of Lake Helen First Nation based in Thunder Bay, Ont. She covers stories that highlight Indigenous voices with a special focus on arts and culture.