Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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A homeless dog’s life

December 01 2014
Martin and his dog Bassa on the streets. © Isobel Hutchinson Martin and his dog Bassa on the streets. © Isobel Hutchinson
One of the biggest problems for homeless dog owners is the lack of dog-friendly accommodation

"One of the biggest problems for homeless dog owners is the lack of dog-friendly accommodation,” says Lynsey Alston, Outreach Project Co-ordinator at Dogs Trust. “According to Homeless Link figures, only eight per cent of hostels in the UK accept dogs, so many people are forced to choose between their dog and a place to stay.”

If you’ve ever struggled to find a hostel for you and your four-legged friend, this will ring true. But Dogs Trust is hoping to change the status quo by encouraging more hostels and night shelters to accept clients with dogs – as well as offering advice on issues such as animal health and safety, hygiene and behaviour. “Homeless people often have very strong bonds with their dogs, so separating them is usually not the best solution,” says Alston.

St Mungo’s Broadway is one of the few homeless organisations to offer accommodation to people with pets. Last year, three per cent of residents (about 40 people) kept a dog in St Mungo’s hostels and semi-independent housing projects. Other animals have been known too, including two pet rats.

A resident can have up to three pets at one time and Dog’s Trust provides free and subsidised medical treatment through its long-running Hope Project – operating in more than 100 UK towns and cities.

“Our veterinary scheme provides free vaccinations, microchipping, neutering, flea and worming treatments,” says Alston. “Dogs Trust will also subsidise most other necessary or emergency treatments the dog may need. The aim of our veterinary scheme is to help owners to keep their dogs happy and healthy until they can find a new, permanent home together."

At Christmas, the charity also distributes parcels of dog treats, toys, coats, blankets, collars and leads – and hands out dog coats and blankets to rough sleepers with their dogs.

Other charities offering a helping hand to dog owners include the Pet Refuge service, which provides support if you need to go into hospital or rehab, and the Mayhew Animal Home.

Animal Welfare Officers visit homelessness projects to carry out health checks, run sessions on looking after a pet, and give out donated pet food, free worm and flea treatments, and new collars and leashes where needed.

More info: www.dogstrust.org.uk/hope-project

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