Should Homeless People Have Pets

Homeless man his dog

Sadly, homelessness is on the rise in our country. With costs becoming higher and higher and stable employment challenging to find, many people are forced to take their belongings and try to make it on the streets. Still, when it comes to things to leave behind, homeless people are resolute that though some things aren’t necessary for life on the street, their pets are an absolute necessity. Research indicates that homeless people would prefer to sleep outdoors with their pets than take refuge in a shelter if their pets are not permitted to be inside with them. If homeless people can’t take care of their own financial needs, should homeless people have pets? 

Why Do Homeless People Own Pets?

Life on the street is very challenging. Sadly, homeless people are often met with a lot of indifference. Many people try to ignore their presence, making the homeless person feel others wished they would simply disappear.

The condition of being homeless is very demoralizing. Most homeless people are completely separated from their family and friends, leading to intense feelings of loneliness. With each passing day in isolation from others, the homeless can start to feel desperate for a simple kind gesture or a little bit of attention and affection.

Over time, people learn how to live on the streets, developing a certain savviness that helps them to survive. However, homelessness can be very scary and carries with it many risks. In the face of these feelings of loneliness and fear, a pet can make all the difference for a homeless person. A pet can help homeless people feel protected and brave. When the homeless person feels he doesn’t have a friend in the world, his cherished dog or cat reminds him that someone loves him unconditionally.

Homeless people greatly benefit from the companionship a pet offers. This connection to another living being helps to stave off some of the loneliness and provides them with additional protection, dedication, and love. This relationship can make the difference between surviving on the streets or a tragic end to their struggle.

Can A Homeless Person Properly Care for a Pet?

The bottom line is homeless people have every right to own a pet. Though some people feel homeless people lack the means to properly care for their animals, this is often the furthest thing from the truth. Most homeless people will sacrifice things they want and need for their own comfort and survival to ensure their pet does not go without.

When it comes to pet ownership, the only difference between homeless people and those who reside in a home is the obvious: the homeless don’t have a house or apartment to call their own. Their standard of care for their pet remains a top priority, and they do all that they can to ensure their pets have everything they need including a comfortable bed to lay in, good quality food to eat, and toys to play with. Homeless people cherish their pets just as those with homes do. To them, they are not simply pets; they are family.

Do Homeless People Need Pets?

People choose to share their lives with pets for many different reasons. But are there advantages for homeless people who own pets? Here are a few of the reasons why homeless people can greatly benefit from pet ownership: 

  • A pet gives homeless people hope and a purpose

Not having a home is an extremely difficult thing for a person to have to face. Owning a pet provides a homeless person with a reason to get up every day. With a pet to take care of, homeless people have a sense of purpose, a life that is depending on them and that looks forward to spending time with them.

Pets can also provide great comfort for homeless people, helping them to feel less alone and more secure. The very presence of a pet has a soothing effect on the homeless person. In addition to this, research shows that homeless people that share their lives with a pet are less likely to engage in drug and alcohol use or criminal activity. 

  • A pet provides both physical and mental protection

When a person becomes homeless, it is not only their physical well-being that can be threatened. With the loss of their home, a homeless person’s self-esteem can suffer greatly, leading to feelings of depression, loneliness, and deep despair. The responsibility of a pet helps the homeless person to continue to put one foot in front of the other in order to provide their pet with the life they deserve. The additional physical exercise that comes from walking a dog boosts overall morale and health.

During cold spells, the close companionship of a dog or cat helps to keep the homeless person warm and more comfortable. The opportunity to share close quarters with a pet also provides many health benefits, including lowered stress levels and improved blood pressure. Other advantages include greater immunity, reduced risk of heart attacks and stroke, and lessened physical and emotional suffering.

  • Pet ownership helps provide greater visibility for homeless people

It’s not uncommon for homeless people to feel like the world passes them by, leaving them virtually invisible. It’s surprising the effect a pet alongside a homeless person can have on people. Research indicates that people in the street are more likely to interact with a homeless person if they have a dog or a cat with them. This is a sad but true fact.

What are the Biggest Problems Homeless Pet Owners Face?

Sadly, pet ownership can sometimes stand in the way of a homeless person finding shelter or receiving low-income housing solutions. Many homeless people must make the decision between abandoning their pet in exchange for a warm bed in a shelter or remaining cold and uncomfortable on the streets but with their pet. When faced with these options, most homeless pet owners choose to remain on the streets with their dog or cat.

In recent years, some shelters have made their facilities pet-friendly to allow pet owning homeless people to remain with their fave canine or feline friend while enjoying a warm and comfortable place to stay.

What Is Being Done to Help Homeless People with Pets?

2008 saw a big advance in homeless shelters in Canada when Fred Victor opened the first facility that allowed homeless people to find refuge there with their pets. More and more, society is beginning to recognize the important role that pets play in the lives of all people, the homeless included, and this new realization is propelling forward a drive to find a way to keep homeless people and their pets together.

In addition to providing a warm and comfortable place for pets and their owners to find shelter, Fred Victor’s facility also offers amenities that all pets need including food, toys, and access to veterinary care. The pets that frequent this shelter are not just guests; they are welcome friends that provide encouragement to all of the shelter’s residents.

Today, animal organizations throughout Canada and the United States are donating substantial funds to help assist homeless people and their pets. Most of this money is aimed at creating more pet-friendly shelters and equipping them with all of the amenities that pets love most. 

Homeless person and dogs

What About Veterinary Care for Pets Owned by Homeless People?

It is an unfair assumption that a homeless person is unable to provide appropriate veterinary care for their pets. As with Fred Victor’s pet-friendly shelter, there are homeless facilities that welcome pets and also assist with any veterinary needs their residents’ animals may have. However, recent studies conducted by pet-friendly homeless shelters offering veterinary assistance showed that the pets owned by homeless people were in no poorer condition than pets that were owned by families living in their own homes. In fact, the vast majority of the dogs and cats that were examined by the shelter’s veterinary personnel were in excellent health.

In addition to pet-friendly shelters where veterinary assistance is available, more and more cities are offering pop-up veterinary clinics where homeless people can receive treatment and wellness assessments for their dogs and cats if needed.

Should homeless people have pets if they can’t take care of themselves? The bottom line is pets can be a huge help to those who are struggling with finding a place to call home. From providing emotional and physical strength at a time when it is needed most to offering comfort and protection, there is no question that homeless people function much better when they have a pet to care for. The truth is homeless people love their pets just as those who live in family homes do. They will sacrifice their own needs to ensure their pets are properly taken care of, and thus, it is really a fallacy that just because a homeless person may not have everything they need for themselves that their pets will go without. The opposite is most often the true picture: the pets of a homeless person are very well taken care of, and of course, very deeply loved.

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