Pet Friendly Shelters

Why I Think Pets Are Good For Shelters

What are the benefits of letting pets accompany their owners in refuges and shelters? Patrick Caruana shares his personal experiences in the sector, seeing the many and varied benefits of animal companionship.

Patrick Caruana

Guest author Patrick Caruana has a passion for social justice and housing and has been working in the sector for many years to help people change their lives for the better. He currently works at GCJ Sessional Management Services to help businesses reach their potential in a dynamic environment.

I have seen the benefits first-hand of providing accommodation for pets of the homeless in shelters and refuges.

As a landlord, I provided my tenant a property with two kennels, secure gates and fences for her two dogs. When she came to view the house and saw the facilities for her dogs I saw her visibly relax. She had separated from her husband, who had threatened to destroy the dogs if they were left behind. She had been unsuccessful in securing housing because she had four girls and the two dogs. She has lived in the house and made it a home for the past five years.

I managed a retirement living and aged care facility in rural Victoria in the early 2000s. All the Independent Living Residents were encouraged to have pets. Those that did were encouraged to take their pets when visiting the Residential Care Facility to see friends or family. The joy on the faces of both residents and staff was really special. The staff were also encouraged to bring their dogs in to the residential care facility. The Director of Nursing and the two Division 1 nurses used to bring in their golden retrievers daily. From the moment they walked through the doors they would be off lead and free to wander the facility. They could sense the impending passing of a resident and would go and sit in their room with them.

Having the dogs there was so successful that we actually turned a glassed-off internal courtyard into a mini zoo. The local vets advised us and we put together a menagerie of birds, different reptiles, possums and a small pond. The animals were not natural predators of each other and we made sure they were always well fed. Residents often watched the animals around the glass. It was a really calming feature.

I moved on from that organisation and began working for a youth support agency, which had a crisis refuge for young people up to the age of 21. Again, all staff were encouraged to bring their dogs in when they came to work. The really amazing thing is that the dogs seemed to sense which of the young people were really vulnerable and approach and nuzzled them until they got a response. The dogs stayed by the side of the young person until they sensed that they were calm. They wandered freely through the house. If a group of young people stayed for a week, the dogs would rotate and spend one night with each young person. They did this intuitively without any input from the staff. Those who called the service were asked if they had a pet and were invited to bring them

The amazing thing is that the dogs seem to understand that the refuge was a place of high stress and tension and they didn’t get aggressive with each other at all. They sensed that peace and calm was what was needed, and they provided that.

I, myself, have two kelpies and could not consider a life without them. When I’m down or worried and when I’m happy, they sense that and provide fun and extroverted companionship.

In 2014, the recognition that pet therapy is integral to also assisting those with mental health issues, along with the anecdotal evidence that I presented, should go some way to establish and confirm the benefits of allowing pets to accompany their owners into homeless refuges. Perhaps the refuges could form partnerships and collaborate with animal shelters. That way, the shelters can provide the homeless centres with either pet food packages or through larger economies of scale purchasing partnerships to provide the homeless centres with cheaper pet foods.

From my experience and perspective, there are no significant negative impacts in allowing the homeless to bring their pets into the centres and providing pet accommodation. The only impediment to instituting initial change is in our minds. Once we are prepared to step outside the accepted thought lines, anything is possible.

Peggy’s Promise: Providing Shelter For The Animals Of Those In Need

Pet careCat care

Peggy’s Promise is a project that assists the every day needs of animals on the NSW Central Coast. It is run by dedicated volunteers who rely on the compassion and goodwill of the community to keep helping those in need. They work to help vulnerable Australians by supporting them in caring for their beloved pets.

They are currently working on a trial program with a shelter to offer temporary pet accommodation to those in need. To do this, they need keep up the cost of veterinary bills and kennelling, which covers food, accommodation and daily care and exercise, for all the four-legged clients that come through. Donate here and help Peggy’s Promise continue to give every pet the love and care they deserve. There is also the option to donate directly to the vet or kennel, so you know exactly where your contributions are going.

 

A pet-friendly society

Off-leash Dog Park

With one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, Australians are known to be animal-lovers. Almost two-thirds of Australian households have a pet and four out of five have owned one at some stage before. Things brings into question the people who are without a place to call home. What happens to their loyal companions? And what is being done to help support the bond they have with their beloved pets?

The benefits of pet ownership are far and wide and the local government would do well to support it. Not only have significant physical and psychological benefits from pet ownership been proven, but pets help to bring communities and people together.

Quite simply, they provide happiness, companionship, love and bestow a sense of pride and responsibility. These may seem like small features but are priceless to those who are homeless. It has been estimated the over $4 billion is saved each year from the national health bill, due to the physical and mental benefits that pets provided.

Around Sydney, the signs are rising to make the city a better place for dogs. This includes more off-leash areas, drinking bowls and more education programs for owners. Yet, there is still a long way to go to becoming a truly pet-friendly society. Policies are restrictive when it comes to allowing pets on public transport, apartments, retirement villages and sadly, homeless shelters or refuges. Unfortunately, these are some of the places where a pet’s presence is needed and appreciated the most.

An ideal future will see policies governing admission of animals into shelters, apartments and retirement villages, to name a few. The issue of homeless people and pets is also one to address.

This requires the support of government members, and all members of society can give voice to the issue by bringing it to their local MPs.

The bond between pet and owner is truly unique, and should be honoured in any situation.

The Blue House, Reuben & Wrecker

“I’ve had him since he was five weeks and he’s turning three this year. I didn’t know what to call him and then I found him chewing up everything so I called him Wrecker. He’s my best friend. He frets when I’m not around and I do too. Wherever I go I’ll take him with me, share my food with him, everything. He’s so placid and good with children.”

 

       Reuben and Wrecker   Reuben and Wrecker 2

This is Reuben and Wrecker. We had the pleasure of meeting Reuben and Wrecker at The Blue House in Parramatta. Reuben was once living rough on the streets along with Wrecker before The Blue House took them in and helped them get back on their feet. Community Medic took occupation of The Blue House and have transformed it into a safe place for homeless rough sleepers to find support. The Blue House is still working to build an official office, but their doors and services remain open nonetheless. It is a 24-hour information and services premises for people who are homeless. The homeless are welcome at any time to shower, wash and dry their clothes, get emergency bedding, accommodation and support in whatever way needed. Blue House even provides computers with internet access. The best part is that they welcome companion animals, meaning that absolutely everyone is welcome. The Blue House is an incredible place that helps rough sleepers transform their lives. The amazing sense of community often means the people who come through Blue House become family. Community Medic is now looking to open more premises around Australia. We encourage you to learn more about this great organisation at http://www.communitymedic.org.au/

Wrecker

 

 

The Kennel Project & Jewish House

Long-term kennel structure at Jewish House

Long-term kennel structure at Jewish House

Old kennel facilities to be replaced

Old kennel facilities to be replaced

Jewish House is currently building long-term kennels to provide for the beloved pets of people undergoing crisis. Jewish House is an amazing organisation that provides 24/7 crisis support and services to those who need it. They help a range of people, and luckily, this extends to animals as well. This great news means that struggling Australians have a place to stay and get back on their feet, without having to leave their best friends behind! Jewish House also work alongside Project HoPe (Homeless Pets) with a vet to care for the pets that come in.

 How can you help?

Sponsor the construction of the kennels by donating here and attaching a message for ‘The Kennel Project’ as well as any personal notes – we’d love to hear your thoughts! Every little contribution makes a difference. We will also be adding in a plaque to thank those who choose to donate $300 or more, which will be placed above the kennels. Any bits and pieces like matting, toys and blankets to add to the kennels to make life more comfortable for the dogs will also be greatly appreciated.  Any excess funds that we may be lucky enough to have will go towards ongoing costs of providing for the animals that come in, including food and veterinary services with Project HoPe. Email us at petsofthehomelesssyd@gmail.com to get in touch or feel free to stop by our Facebook page to talk. We can’t wait to hear from you.

This is a truly exciting initiative, as we know there aren’t many shelters that welcome pets, let alone provide for them! Your support will allow vulnerable Australians, including those who are homeless, keep the strong bond between them and their pets, ensuring that they are provided a constant sense of comfort and familiarity as they get back on their feet.

Kennel Construction

Kennels under construction

Jewish House backyard under construction

Jewish House backyard under construction

About The Kennel Project

The Kennel Project is our way to help more shelters and crisis accommodation support vulnerable Australians and the pets they keep. Few shelters open their doors to animals, and the ones that do still need a little help to make every pet’s stay comfortable.

Get in contact with us at petsofthehomelesssyd@gmail.com or chat to us on our Facebook page to keep updated with the progress!

If you are a shelter or know of a shelter that is looking to open their doors to animals, we would love to hear from you. We want The Kennel Project to spread and help more places support the bond between owner and pet.

Pet Friendly Shelters & Accommodation

Pet and Owner Bond

For many people without a home, pets provide constant support, love and companionship. Homeless people often have to choose between their pet and accommodation, with most preferring to live rough on the streets than go without their beloved companions. Luckily, there are some wonderful accommodation options that open their doors to not only the homeless, but their animals.

Jewish House

Jewish House is a NFP organisation in Bondi led by Rabbi Kastel to provide assistance to those in the community without a place to call home. They also provide kennels for the homeless with pets, so vulnerable Australians can get the help they need without having to choose between their animal companions. Not only do they provide accommodation for the vulnerable, but also offer case management services to support individuals and families to get back on their feet. Rabbi Kastel and Jewish House work amazingly hard to address the issue of homelessness in NSW. It’s wonderful to see a shelter recognise and support the bond between owner and pet, no matter what the circumstance.

Australian Common Ground Alliance

The Common Ground Project in Camperdown provides affordable, safe and permanent housing to those in the community suffering from chronic homelessness. With the help of The Mercy Foundation, the Common Ground community is “pet friendly”, allowing tenants to keep pets. In addition to this, the Wentworth Community Housing Project at Penrith also welcomes pets, offering subsidised accommodation for homeless men and women.

In addition to these accommodation options, there are program such as the RSPCA’s Living Ruff Program look after pets so people can access interim accommodation and look to finding a permanent home, before being reunited with their companions.

These are all wonderful organisation that support the bond between homeless people and their pets, it’s what we need to see more of! If there are any other crisis accommodation and shelters that welcome pets, we would love to hear about them. Feel free to email us at petsofthehomelesssydney@gmail.com or visit us on our Facebook page.