Lean on me, and let me lean on you. 

Helping Strays has programs intended to help our community members care for their pets, and keep them in their homes. There are also programs designed to get pets back to health, and into permanent, loving homes. Interested in helping out? Need a hand? Check out the programs below.

First Base 

Fostering is the first base, on the way to a home run! 

  • Why does Helping Strays need a Foster Care Program?
  • The foster program allows Helping Strays to greatly expand our ability to rescue and rehabilitate animals. Because the shelter is always overburdened, foster homes increase the number of pets that can be rescued. Puppies and kittens have so much to learn that can only be learned in a home. Equally important is the need for quiet, loving homes for senior pets with special needs and for those recuperating from surgery or other illness such as heartworm treatment. High energy dogs need the extra room to move that only a home can provide. Cats, too, find the shelter stressful, and having more space and a place to get away from other animals can make all the difference to them.
  • What Does a Foster Parent Do? Foster families provide loving attention and training until these animals are adopted or ready to return to the facility. Basic care, as you would do for your own pet, possibly housetraining, beginning obedience training, transporting your foster pet to adoption events or to the vet, and lots of TLC are all required. Animals in foster care are adopted more quickly and easily than from the shelter facility because so much more is known about the pet’s personality and behavior in a home. Foster parents are always great advocates for their fosterlings, and adopters like that!
  • What does Helping Strays provide to Foster homes? Helping Strays provides information and support so your foster experience will be a positive one. Food, equipment, and all veterinary care is provided. Many of our foster families do donate food, litter and other necessities. That is greatly appreciated but not expected .
  • What are the benefits of being a foster parent? The answers are as varied as the volunteers who foster. Some of the most often heard reasons are: knowing you were directly responsible for saving an animal’s life and vital to her placement in a permanent home; the joy of working with puppies or kittens for just a few weeks then passing them on; the opportunity for a great fun family project that teaches children the joy and responsibility of caring for a pet; and the opportunity to have the pet in the house without a lifetime commitment.
  • Which Pet Will I Foster? Helping Strays matches the foster family to the foster pet. We have foster care volunteers who only handle puppies; some take in recuperating pets. One family knows and loves herding breeds and another enjoys terriers. One foster family is great with kittens. What do you want to do? What sort of experience do you have? What fits your life? Fostering is temporary, but we still want the fit to be good. The choice of your foster pet will always be made with your help and will never be forced.
  • How do I Become A Helping Strays Foster Care Volunteer?Discuss fostering with everyone in your family. Fostering can be harder than adopting and it doesn’t work if the whole household is not on board. Some fosterlings may need more time and training to make their transition to adoption smooth.
    • Obtain landlord approval if necessary
    • Verify that all of your personal pets are healthy and up to date on all vaccinations
    • Fill out the Foster Application form and return it to Helping Strays
    • Have an Helping Strays volunteer visit your home
    • Decide what sort of animal you would like to foster. Dog or cat, adult or youngster, recuperating, calm or vibrantly active.
    • Upon approval as a Helping Strays foster care volunteer, obtain the required foster license from the State of Illinois.  This is just a form and payment, to Illinois, of a $25 licensing fee.



Spay and Neuter Assistance Program 


Advantages of Spaying/Neutering your Pet

Spaying your female pets and neutering your male pets has many advantages for both long term health and for behavior. The main advantage of spaying/neutering is fewer unwanted pets. Unplanned litters are the biggest cause of pet overpopulation and euthanasia. Altering your pet will also help your dog or cat live a longer, healthier life. Additional benefits include:

Benefits of Spaying

  • No heat cycles, so no intact males hanging around
  • No blood spotting in the house
  • Less desire to roam
  • Decreased risk of mammary gland tumors, ovarian and/or uterine cancer is reduced or eliminated, especially if done before the first heat cycle

Benefits of Neutering

  • Reduced or eliminated risk of spraying and marking
  • Less desire to roam, so less likely to be injured in fights or auto accidents
  • No risk of testicular cancer, and decreased risk of prostate disease
  • Reduced aggressive behavior, including dog fights or biting

Helping Strays will have events set up periodically for reduced cost spay and neuter clinics. If you would like to help sponsor one of these clinics, please donate now.


The Hutch Fund 

Veterinary assistance program 

A pet owner never needs the comfort and love of their pet more than during times of medical or emotional stress. Yet, the financial burdens that come with health problems or family issues may make it difficult or impossible to pay for a pet’s medical bills.
The Hutch Fund is a financial aid program to help pet owners, who are under financial stress, care for their pets. This program helps cover vet bills to prevent the owner from having to surrender their beloved pets. It can cover routine vet care or emergency care.
To qualify for assistance, a pet owner would have to show that he/she is under financial stress through no fault of their own. The program is not intended for everyone. The applicant will be asked to provide personal information showing proof of financial duress and a home inspection.
For more information, call 618-939-7389 or email hutch.fund@helpingstrays.org
Donate to The Hutch Fund, and lend a helping hand to a family who might otherwise have to surrender their pet.