The many benefits of pet ownership include improving our physical and mental health. Pet ownership is not limited to people who live in the security of their homes. People facing the plight of homelessness are no different. A study on the health and welfare of dogs owned by homeless people shows no significant health difference to those owned by non-homeless individuals. The good news is that there are now vets for dogs of homeless owners. They are being supported by animal charities and organisations such as Street Vet and Dogs on the Street (DOTS).
How are homeless dogs coping with ‘their way of life’?
Dogs are built with natural resistance to easily adapt to changes in the weather and to tolerate the temperature of the environment.
A blanket in a sheltered corner might not be ideal for dogs in some people’s eyes, however, he may sit and fit perfectly anywhere as long as he is in the company of his human. One of the common struggles of homeless pet owners is the lack of shelter that accepts pets. As such, some opt to spend the cold night with their furry soulmate on the street.
Helping homeless dog owners
“She’s my life. Obviously, it gives me more confidence with her, to know that she’s healthy,” says Judy, one of the people helped by the Street Vets.
The Street Vets visited 10 cities across the UK to deliver care and support to dogs living rough lives. They offer worm and flea treatment, medications, and referrals for more serious health issues.
“Without them, she wouldn’t be here and to me, there’s nothing wrong with her. She should be entitled to this extra bit of life,” says Charlie with his dog, Gypsy.
Street Vets’ assistance extends to the streets of London, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cheltenham, Cornwall, Plymouth, and Southampton.
“That bond between the homeless and their pets is incredibly strong. It’s probably one of the strongest bonds that I’ve ever seen and I think they do take pride in their pets,” shared Sarah Jane Smith from Street Vet.
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Why many homeless people choose to have pets
A study by David Leonard Williams and Sarah Hogg on ‘The health and welfare of dogs belonging to homeless people’ involves 50 dogs owned by homeless people and another 50 owned by people living in a conventional home. The study reveals that there is no great disparity on the dog’s health and welfare. In fact, those owned by homeless people have lower chances of obesity, which is becoming a prevalent problem in domestic canines. On top of that, there are fewer behaviour issues observed such as aggression and separation anxiety. There is, however, a lower body condition scores on dogs owned by homeless owners.
So, why do homeless pet owners choose this way of life with their four-legged friends?
Love and a sense of companionship
A study by Labrecque and Walsh found statistical reports on homeless women participants:
- 39% find an emotional attachment with the unconditional acceptance from pets due to their non-judgemental nature.
- 51% sees pets as a source of comfort.
A sense of responsibility
Although it is true that there are struggles in getting basic necessities whilst surviving on the street, providing food for their dogs is important. When you start to care and love another living being, you have the responsibility to meet all his needs.
According to researchers, animal companionship can be transformative in the lives of people who are a predicament. Many reveal that having pets helped them overcome addiction.
Love, companionship are just some of the reasons why homeless people take life’s path with their furry friend by their side.