When you walk past somebody who is living on the street alongside a companion animal, you may not be able to stop yourself thinking “why do they own a pet when they can barely look after themselves?”. Many people worry about if the animal is getting proper care, food and treatment. These are often the challenges for people living rough, but pet ownership for homeless people also provides a world of benefits.
Number one is that a pet provides constant companionship. When you live by yourself on the streets, your pet becomes your best, and sometimes only friend.
Pets do not judge. As long as you love and care for them, a pet will always be happy and by your side.
Pets provide a sense of responsibility and purpose. When your life starts to lose direction, these small things can bring routine and move the day along.
Animal companions make powerful contributions to the physical and emotional wellbeing of homeless people. During hard times when homeless people have little else, a pet is a sustaining symbol of hope.
However, we know the difficulties of finding shelters and long-term accommodation that allow pets to stay with their owners. In fact, many homeless people choose to continue living on the streets if it means they get to stay with their four-legged friends. Homeless people and the pets they keep have an unshakeable bond, and it can cause separation anxiety to be away from them, even when sleeping. This stops a lot of vulnerable Australians seeking help and even medical treatment for fear of being taken away from their pet.
Another difficulty is accessing food and veterinary services for pets. Homeless people will often go without to ensure that their pet eats first and gets necessary treatment. However, there are many amazing programs such as the RSPCA’s “Living Ruff”, Pets in the Park and Project HoPe (Homeless Pets) that make these services accessible to those who need a helping hand.