“Now, some will say that the person looking for accommodation should just give away their dog…. I could never do that, and that is a decision they definitely should not have to make. There are many benefits to accepting dogs into hostels, not just for the owners and the dogs themselves, but for staff and other residents. When homeless people are forced to choose between their dog and a hostel place, most will, understandably, choose to stay with their dog, as their dog is most often their best friend, their companion. The bond between any dog owner and a dog is a strong one, but it will never be more so than with that of homeless people.”
– Jack Sargeant AM
It is estimated that between 5-10% of homeless people have pets, with dogs being the most common animal. Most homeless shelters operate “no dogs” policy. Unfortunately, having a feline friend will be a barrier to securing a long-term accommodation as well. Around 80% of private sector landlords will not rent to homeless people as they are deemed to be ‘risky’ tenants, pet ownership makes the situation even harder.
Homeless pet owners provoke a range of reactions, from curiosity to hostility. So why do homeless people own pets? And should they have pets at all?
For those experiencing homelessness, whose social networks are usually limited as a result of their housing situation, bonding with an animal is a great source of love and companionship. In many stories, love, companionship and responsibility are all common reasons why homeless people want to keep their pets.
This week we’ll explore stories of Pobl clients and their pets:
Dogs at Albert Street
Dog Friendly Hostels
For many homeless people, their dog might be their only source of strength and companionship. Facing homelessness is already an extremely difficult time but being forced to choose between your pet and a safe place to live is a choice no-one should have to make.
At Pobl, we recognise how important the bond between a pet and its owner is and we are doing our best to support that relationship by providing dog-friendly accommodation options. We’ve identified additional seven dog-friendly Pobl accommodation with two more that will accept dogs on a case-by-case basis: https://www.moretodogstrust.org.uk/help-with-finding-accommodation/dog-friendly-hostels/region/wales-cymru
However, emergency accommodation will never be the solution and providing more permanent housing is the long-term plan. Under any future “Housing First” policy, pets will be recognised and taken into account when sourcing housing.
Harry McKeown, Pobl’s Assistant Director of Support said:
“One of the core principles of Housing First is Choice. Many of us choose to keep dogs as pets in our own homes, perhaps for companionship, a sense of responsibility, or perhaps even for a feeling of protection. People affected by homelessness are no different, and perhaps more acutely have a desire to have a connection with a pet – more often than not, a dog – living on the streets is a lonely and dangerous place to be.
Within our Housing First service, we proactively work with our Housing Association partners (Pobl Homes and Communities, Newport City Homes and Melin Housing) to find homes where they can take their dogs with them, straight from the streets. Forcing someone to choose having a roof over their head and losing their beloved pet is not a Choice that we feel people should have to make and we’re there to support them with this.”
Dogs Trust have been very helpful in updating their website and providing valuable advice around having dogs in hostels: https://www.moretodogstrust.org.uk/welcoming-dogs-in-hostels/welcoming-dogs-in-hostels
They also have a veterinary scheme whereby they fund vet treatment for dogs whose owners are homeless or in housing crisis. Schemes are currently run in Cardiff, Llanelli, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, and Swansea. Any of the hostels in these areas can register online: https://www.moretodogstrust.org.uk/hope-project/sign-up/new
and once they have been accepted as a registered organisation, they can do online applications for their clients with dogs to join the Hope Project.
Dogs Trust cover the cost of all preventative treatment (flea and worming, microchipping, neutering and vaccinations) as well as most other essential and emergency treatment the dog may need.