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Saving animals one foster family at a time: Rosenberg 'dog whisperer' highlights program

Fostering dogs helps offset the capacity levels at area animal shelters. Three-year-old Dakota Johnson shows why it's a win-win for dogs and families.

HOUSTON — With Houston-area animal shelters reporting capacity issues and a downward trend in pet adoptions, fostering animals has become more important than ever, according to animal advocates.

Dakota Johnson from Rosenberg showed KHOU 11 News that she's helping to fight the problem.

"I love all the doggies!" Dakota Johnson said. 

According to her mother, the 3-year-old is somewhat of a dog whisperer. 

"They all seem to be so connected to her," her mother, Laura Johnson said. "And the little dogs and the big dogs will listen to her sometimes more than us. She'll teach them how to sit, how to crate train them, and by the time they go to their new families, they're all set and training for everything."

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The Johnsons began fostering at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with a rescue group that covers medical expenses and other costs for the animals. Foster families give their time and space.

"When we put her pictures up on the different sites for them to rescue, people can see how they're so good with children and are such family dogs," she said. "Most of our dogs have gone to homes that have small children."

Fostering allows potential new owners to see a dog's personality, and it also helps the animal get used to home life.

"A lot of people adopted dogs when the pandemic started, and people were in quarantine," Johnson said. "So they had a lot more time for the pets, and now a lot of dogs are being returned to the shelters, which is really sad. Dogs are a lifetime commitment and people are bringing them back, unfortunately, so the shelters are completely at capacity. And that's why applying to foster is so important right now."

Best Friends Animal Society representatives say the foster program can be a life-saving link for the animals as shelters reach and exceed capacity.

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Two of Houston's major shelters had nearly 750 dogs with other smaller facilities operating at or above capacity, organization representatives said.

Of the twelve dogs the Johnsons have fostered, all of them have been adopted. They hope their current foster dog, Maui, will soon be headed to a forever home.

"He's very sweet to my daughter," Laura Johnson said. "He literally follows her everywhere. He gets along with everyone - any dogs or people that he meets."

Another organization, BARC Houston, is launching its "Empty the Shelters" campaign next week. The organization is offering $10 adoption fees for all pets from May 3 through May 15.

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