Katie Murray and her foster dog Sable

In the Community: Fostering Hope for Animals in Need

Katie Murray has opened her heart—and her door—to homeless animals for many years. With the coronavirus pandemic causing an uptick in abandoned animals, Murray is stepping up, fostering and facilitating adoptions in new ways.

MITRE employees take our mission of solving problems for a safer world to heart—and to their communities. Our "In the Community" series highlights the many ways our people make a difference in neighborhoods across the country and around the globe.

Select stories feature employees lending their time, talent, and heart to the fight against COVID-19. Katie Murray’s story shows us how pet adoptions are adapting during the pandemic.

I volunteer with two local animal rescue organizations: Fairfax County Animal Shelter since 2015 and [Northern Virginia] NOVA Pets Alive! and its ResQ Crew since 2016. I foster dogs and help connect them with a person or family who’s the best fit. I signed up to care for dogs, cats, snakes, you name it, but I mostly foster dogs. I also share adoption information on social media.

At the shelter, I walk dogs, clean kennels, and say “hi” to the other animals. I love to relax with a ball python around my neck!

The pandemic has definitely increased the number of animals that need homes.

A Place for All Creatures

I read a study by 24Pet Shelter Watch about how foster care across the country is up 35 percent since mid-March. With so many people losing their jobs or being too sick to care for pets, more animals are ending up in shelters.

The Fairfax shelter is closed for public adoptions and events right now. The staff tried to get as many animals as possible into foster care—dogs, cats, bunnies—before Virginia’s stay-at-home order took effect. Being a foster helps reduce the strain on the shelter’s limited staff and resources, which are hugely volunteer-dependent. NOVA Pets Alive! is not a brick-and-mortar organization; it's a grassroots network of volunteers.

Virtual Adoptions

Both the shelter and NOVA Pets Alive! are doing virtual-based adoptions with limited physical interaction, so animals can still make it to their new families. I used FaceTime with an interested adopter so she could get a sense of Sophie, one of my recent foster dogs. Sophie was in my face for much of our call and charmed the audience. My coworker’s sister submitted her adoption application when the shelter posted Sophie’s profile on their website.

It All Adds Up

All dogs want is to make us happy—they ask for nothing in return. They can’t advocate for themselves, so the very least I can do is be inspired by their inherent generosity. If I can help save a dog’s life by fostering, or by stopping at the shelter to walk the dogs or give them some love, it’s worth it.

What many people may not know is that some organizations allow you to foster an animal for a day, a weekend, two weeks, or longer while they await their forever families. If you’re available, there’s very likely a rescue organization that wants your help. Every little bit helps.

Why I Do It

I volunteered at an animal shelter during college and felt like it made a positive difference, so I looked for a shelter to get involved with when I moved here. People say to me, "Seeing all of those poor animals would just break my heart!" Well, yes, it is heartbreaking, which is exactly why I volunteer.

I can either be sad and do nothing, or channel those feelings and passion for animals' well-being into something productive.

—by Katie Murray, as told to Karina Wright

Inclusion and diversity have long been key elements of our culture. MITRE is committed to leading the way to a strong future through community involvement and volunteerism, locally and nationally, and we offer 40 hours of paid time to employees to volunteer during the workday for causes they care about. Learn more about working with us.