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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Pets need homes too, urges charity

February 10 2012
People should not have to choose between somewhere to sleep and their much-loved animal companions


An animal welfare charity is calling for more pet-friendly homeless services, so that people are not forced to make the choice between somewhere to sleep and their much-loved animal companions.

One Kind, the animal protection charity, stresses that pets that are often impeccably looked after by homeless people and that the emotional benefits of pet ownership can lead them to sort out their problems.

Yet all too often people end up having to make a choice between taking a hostel bed and giving up their pet, or sleeping on the streets.

Fin Robertson, the campaigns manager at One Kind, said: “For those who have a companion animal, the significance of that one constant relationship can be immense. It would be quite wrong to take well cared for dogs away from homeless people. In some ways, as long as basic needs and shelter are attended to, these animals are lucky: they are with their owners all the time and feel strongly bonded and a belonging.”

According to a survey by The Blue Cross, 86 per cent of homeless people said that they had been refused a chance to get off the street and into accommodation simply because they owned a pet.

Julie Bedford, head of behavioural services at The Blue Cross, also highlighted the mutual benefits for pets and their owners and dispels the notion that all pets who have homeless owners are suffering.

“Pets can offer great companionship and even a sense of security to homeless people, who are often some of the most isolated and marginalised people in our society,” she said. “Having an animal to care for can give someone who has lost their home a real reason to keep going, knowing that their pet depends entirely on them.

“However, although charities like The Blue Cross are often able to help out, it can be difficult for homeless people to access veterinary services. And the fact that many shelters and hostels do not admit animals means that homeless people with pets may end up staying on the street in order to stay with their animals, who sadly face the same struggles as their owners to stay safe and find food, warmth and shelter.”

In the year that the Scottish Government aims to have eradicated homelessness by ensuring that everyone is entitled to permanent accommodation, many homeless people believe that the choice between shelter and their pets is one that they shouldn’t have to make.

One Kind is calling for more homeless hostels to become more pet friendly by offering facilities for animals and expert support like visiting vets.

They say more homeless shelters should look to the example of Dunedin Canmore hostel in Edinburgh’s Leith, one of just three in the capital, which allows pets to stay. In fact it not only welcomes pets of all kinds but also provides a weekly vet clinic. Vets who volunteer at the clinic claim it is not uncommon for pets to suffer from separation anxiety when they are taken or forcibly abandoned by their owners.

But for those who don’t have that option, housing charity Shelter advises those forced to choose between accommodation and their pet should ask their local authority if they could arrange a kennel for them.

Alternatively, friends and family could be asked to look after animals on temporary basis. For those looking for a last resort, Shelter offer a pet fostering service and can be called on 0844 811 9909.