Unicorn Foster Squad

Implementation Bootcamp

Save the Unicorns!

Thanks to the Rachael Ray Foundation and Best Friends Animal Society, Gateway Pet Guardians is able to offer the Unicorn Foster Squad Implementation Bootcamp free of charge to shelters and rescues across the nation. The Bootcamp is a free online training course designed to teach organizations how to implement their own Unicorn Foster Squad. Join us as we celebrate our Unicorns and more strategically dedicate resources to the most vulnerable dogs in our shelters and communities.

By the end of the Bootcamp, participants should be able to:

  • Create a Unicorn Foster Program proposal, including an analysis of the need, a program budget, and basic job descriptions for key volunteers and staff.
  • Analyze internal procedures and documentation for at-risk dogs and implement changes throughout the duration of the course.
  • Build a custom adoption plan for an at-risk dog in your organization, utilizing best practices in marketing and training support.
  • Conduct off-leash introductions and playgroups as evaluation tools.
  • Build internal support for both fosters and adopters of at-risk Unicorns.

This isn’t just a program for organizations looking to improve their foster programs. This is a shelter-wide initiative to increase shelter quality of life, decrease length of stay, and get the most at-risk dogs out of the shelter environment before they deteriorate. While we recommend one individual from each organization to submit an application, we also encourage individuals across the organization to participate in the weekly activities and dialogue once selected. The course will cover the following topics:


Topic: Setting the Stage – Introduction to the Unicorn Program

Dates: November 1-7, 2021 (1 week)


  • Describe a Unicorn Foster Program, including the need for such a program and basic tenants for creation and maintenance.
  • Explain to organizational leadership the importance of implementing a Unicorn Foster Program by analyzing the need.
  • Explain the need for transparency within the program, including liability waivers, program expectations, and a clear euthanasia policy/process.

Audience: This module would benefit leadership volunteers and staff advocating for policies and procedures to support at-risk dogs.

Topic: Reviewing Your Foster and Adoption Programs

Dates: November 8-14, 2021 (1 week)


  • Explain general foster and adoption program best practices.
  • Identify ways your organization can remove barriers to fostering and adoption.
  • Implement a support structure and methods of communication in your foster program.

Audience: This module would benefit volunteers and staff supporting foster and adoption programs (i.e. Foster Manager, Adoption Counselor, Placement Counselor, etc.).

Topic: Assessments and Evaluation

Dates: November 15-21, 2021 (1 week)


  • Assess and evaluate dog behaviors for placement into a foster home.
  • Identify whether a dog might be a candidate for the Unicorn Foster Program.
  • Conduct off-leash introductions as evaluation tools.

Audience: This module would benefit volunteers and staff that work directly with animals (i.e. Animal Care, Shelter Manager, Behavior Manager, etc.).

Topic: Incentivizing and Supporting Unicorn Fosters

Dates: November 22-December 5, 2021 (2 weeks)


  • Identify ways your organization can provide support to Unicorn Fosters.
  • Create a Unicorn Foster Incentives program to help recruit Unicorn Fosters.

Audience: This module would benefit volunteers and staff that support foster programming (i.e. Foster Manager, Placement Counselor, etc.).

Topic: Marketing Your Unicorns

Dates: December 6-19, 2021 (2 weeks)


  • Integrate photography and social media best practices into targeted marketing for your Unicorns.
  • Write an online profile that doesn’t focus on any negative aspects of your Unicorn.
  • Write a press release to be used to market your Unicorn.

Audience: This module would benefit volunteers and staff that support marketing and PR for adoptable pets (i.e. Social Media Manager, Foster Manager, Adoption Manager, etc.).

Topic: Training Support

Dates: December 20-January 9, 2022 (3 weeks)


  • Create a repository of resources you can rely on for training and behavioral support for your Unicorn Fosters.
  • Create a custom training plan for a Unicorn Foster.
  • Identify steps your organization can take internally to provide more support for Unicorn Fosters, including muzzle training, playgroups and/or doggy daycare.

Audience: This module would benefit volunteers and staff that support foster and adoption programs (i.e. Foster Manager, Adoption Manager, Behavior Manager, etc.).

Topic: Fundraising and Sustainability

Dates: January 10-16, 2022 (1 week)


  • Create a budget and strategize fundraising for your Unicorn Foster Program.
  • Implement best practices to help fund and sustain your Unicorn Foster Program.

Audience: This module would benefit volunteers and staff that support fundraising and development (i.e. Development Director, Grant Writers, etc.).

Topic: Adopter Support

Dates: January 17-23, 2022 (1 week)


  • Explain the importance of providing ongoing support to those who adopt Unicorn dogs.
  • Identify low-cost perks you can currently provide to Unicorn adopters.

Audience: This module would benefit volunteers and staff that support adoption programming (i.e. Adoption Manager, Adoption Counselor, etc.).

Calling All Unicorn Lovers!

The ideal participant for the Unicorn Foster Squad Implementation Bootcamp is:

  • A volunteer or staff member at an animal shelter, rescue, or government facility working with large-breed dogs;
  • Willing to utilize foster homes by growing an existing foster network;
  • Open to implementing new policies and procedures to help successfully place Unicorns;
  • Interested in saving the most at-risk and vulnerable dogs in their care;
  • Able to commit 5-10 hours a week towards the program.

The next cohort will begin on November 1, 2021. Each module of content consists of pre-work and a one-hour-long Zoom session, which will typically take place on Fridays at 3 pm CST. Please email questions about the Bootcamp to unicornbootcamp@gatewaypets.org.

The deadline to apply is October 1, 2021. Click the link below to apply today!

Participants are eligible to receive grant funding to support their Unicorns!