HARLINGEN — A small backpack filled with food for later, a leash, some toys and they are ready to go.

The Humane Society of Harlingen is hosting field trips and sleepovers for their shelter animals to enjoy while they wait to be adopted.

Animals who have a good temperament, have been too long in the shelter and simply need a day out are chosen to participate in the cost-free activities.

Melissa Zepeda and her daughters have fostered animals from the Humane Society for a while. Several years ago they decided to foster as many animals as they could when they saw the opportunity.

“We would come and get dogs that were eligible to come spend the day at our house or spend the weekend,” she said.

“Just to try to get them out of the pound for a while. My girls and I have a heart for animals and hate to see them cooped up in here and let other people know they are available,” Zepeda said.

Zepeda and her family took Dexter, a brown mixed breed who has been at the shelter for a long time, on a field trip day.

“Our original plan was to take him to the dog park but we noticed he loved riding in the car. We took him back to our house and we let him run and play,” she said.

“We kept him for about four hours but we wanted to get him more exposure so people could adopt him,” Zepeda said.

According to Sara Cano, Communications Coordinator at the Humane Society, anyone can take an eligible animal out for an hour or all day.

“We started this over Thanksgiving and basically said, ‘do you have an extra seat at your table?’ And we had a lot of people come in and keep them for a night or more,” Cano said.

A long-term foster requires a two-week commitment.

Cano said they ask people wanting to do a field trip to please not take them to dog parks or places with other dogs for safety purposes.

All you need is to have an I.D. with you and to be at least 18 years old for field trips or fostering. Overnight sleepovers work the same way.

If you have other dogs, make sure they get along well with others and they are fully vaccinated.

“Something that a lot of people may have concerns about is if it would make dogs sad to take them out and get a sense of freedom and then come back,” Cano said.

“But studies have shown dogs live in the present and what they see is they are having fun and it keeps them going and their brains are stimulated,” she said.

Cano said they want as many people as possible to take advantage of this opportunity, even if it is for a quick walk.

According to Cano, an extra step is filling out a report card on how the dog behaved during the field trip. It asks whether the dog was good around cars or if he was a more relaxed dog.

This helps the Humane Society staff to better match dogs with those who want a day companion.

Zepeda said the Humane Society staff is very willing to work with families who want to take dogs out.

“I encourage anybody to come. If you are not too sure, taking them out on that field trip or over night stay is a perfect way to find out if they are a perfect match for your family,” she said.

Adoption fees for January

Cats and Kittens: $50

Dogs and Puppies: $75

No cost to foster or take on field trips

Humane Society of Harlingen Hours

1106 Markowsky Ave, Harlingen, TX 78550

Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

– Do not take dogs to dog parks

– One hour field trips are allowed

– Weekend sleepovers