Freedom Street Rescue Founder and Board Vice President Karoline Carlson took time to speak with Houston PetSet about how fostering can impact families and spending time to understand each dog’s unique needs pays off in the long run.

One may not immediately consider the similarities between economics and animal rescue, but it’s no surprise that Freedom Street Rescue founder and board vice president Karoline Carlson draws upon her background in economics to make that connection – much of Greater Houston’s overpopulation problem comes down to the law of supply and demand. Basically, there is an oversupply of animals in Houston and much of the south, but there is typically strong demand in northern states where the long, harsh winters create a shorter breeding season for cats and dogs. 

She created Freedom Street Rescue with this premise in mind to save as many dogs as possible from shelters, as well as strays, by returning them to good health and helping them find forever homes in areas where demand for pets is high. For Freedom Street, that is usually accomplished by transporting dogs to states in the Northeast, where more than 80 percent of their rescued dogs find their loving homes. The others go to adopters in the Northwest or, occasionally, other states.

Never one to shy away from a challenging case, Karoline believes there is a perfect home for every dog.We create the bridge to get dogs from areas inundated with animals to places where they are prized by their adopters who really want them,” she said. With the help of amazing fosters and a careful “matchmaking” system, the Freedom Street team takes the time to get to know the dogs in their care and learn about potential adopters so they can make the best matches possible. 

It’s really about having honest conversations to assess potential adopters’ commitment level, energy level, understanding of pet needs and care. “If a dog has high energy and needs to run 10 miles a day, I’m going to give a potential adopter that information upfront” to provide both the dog and the family the best chance at success, she said. 

The way that Freedom Street is able to gain insights into the many dogs in their program is through their fosters. Like many in animal welfare, Karoline wishes more people would foster, noting that it is a lot easier to do than most people think. Plus, organizations like Freedom Street try to match foster pets and people, much like they do with adopters, and provide supplies, vetting and support.

She said sometimes people worry about whether it might be sad when the pet leaves, but she has found that adopter updates, often showing pets living their best lives, provides a real sense of joy that far exceeds any feelings of sadness. “We pull these dogs at their lowest point, and then see them boating in Cape Cod or hiking in Vermont,” she said, acknowledging the transformations that are possible when fosters open their homes and hearts.

But fostering helps more than just the pets – it’s good for the people, too. Karoline’s children, now teenagers, have been helping to foster since before they were three. Not only does fostering teach compassion and responsibility, it’s given them great stories for their college entrance essays, plus there are health benefits as well. Karoline saw a study that reported that children with two or more pets in the home were much less likely to develop various allergies than in homes without pets. Sure enough, they are allergy-free today!

Perhaps what is best about having a foster or a pet is the love. “There’s nothing better from an emotional support standpoint than the love a dog has to give – it makes for a happier, easier home, particularly with teenagers,” Karoline joked. 

Returning to the more serious side of animal welfare and to economics, Karoline expressed concern about the state of animal welfare. As the cost of daily living increases, it could make it even harder for some owners to care for pets. 

But many sectors of the economy are strong, so it’s just a matter of getting commitments and resources from people and businesses that can help. Her dream is that with those resources, someday there will be more support for owners who need help and more education about pets’ needs and the care and commitment required to be a pet guardian. Then perhaps, her ultimate goal will be realized – to see the end of euthanizing for space. Surely, a dream many hope to see become a reality.

Lisa Tynan