Celebrate the season: How Santa’s helpers are opening their homes to animals in Tampa Bay

Home for the Holidays

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Home for the Holidays has a special meaning for animals waiting for their forever family.

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay relies on 200 to 300 foster homes to make sure they can save as many lives as possible. Leighann Queirolo is one of those foster volunteers. She’s opened her home to needy animals for four years now.

“Holidays are for family and your pets, and our dogs are a main part of our family. We just like to share the love,” said Queirolo.

Her home is already filled with four dogs, two cats and four kids. Some of those animals are what’s known as “foster fails.” That’s when the foster volunteer adopts the pet.

This year, Phoebe joins her brood. Phoebe is a 4-year-old black and tan coonhound mix who just had puppies.

“Phoebe came in from another shelter, and she had a litter of puppies. I think 6-8 puppies. When they got old enough to separate, we took Phoebe in to let her recover from the whole nursing process and let her gain some weight because she was very skinny because her puppies were big,” Queirolo explained.

Phoebe currently weighs around 55 pounds, but she needs another 5 to 10 pounds to be at her ideal weight.

For Quierolo fostering an animal at any time is heartwarming, but at the holidays, it is a special gift.

“We foster them because we want to give the love and attention and care they deserve, that they all deserve. If we can get one out of a cage and bring it to our house, that’s what we like to do,” she said.

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay saves more than 10,000 animals a year, and they couldn’t house them all without these foster volunteers.

“We really do rely on our foster parents to put some weight on our underage babies, bottle feed, provide medical care and just give our animals some love,” said Maria Matlack with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

The foster volunteers also help socialize the animals and start training them.

“We’ve taught her to sit. She didn’t know her manners, so we make all the dogs line up, all five of them. My husband’s great at it. He gives them all treats. At first she was grabbing everyone’s treat, but now she sits there and waits,” Quierolo said.

It’s clear to see how foster fails happen as the family bonds with these animals, but Quierolo explains that it is hard work. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work. Usually, when I bring back my littler of puppies. I’m exhausted. I get home, and I sleep. Usually on the way home, I cry because it’s sad. It’s sad to bring them back, but you know they’re going to good homes.

Thanks to the love Quierolo and her family give, Phoebe will soon have a forever Home For the Holidays.

If you’re interested in fostering animals, here are a few shelters to contact:

  • Humane Society of Tampa Bay: 813-774-4346
  • SPCA Tampa Bay: 727-586-3591×162
  • Pet Pal Animal Shelter: 727-328-7738
  • SPCA Florida: 863-646-7722
  • Friends of Strays: 727-522-6566 x 103
  • Canine Castaways: 863-491-6888
  • Humane Society of The Nature Coast: 352-796-2711

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