The need for pet friendly accommodation for homeless people

We conducted an online poll of UK homelessness accommodation providers to see if they accept pets. Only 37% of the 117 participants who were asked to accept pets allowed animals in their premises.

Some providers said that they accept pets for the sake of both the animal and the owner. Some providers stated that residents and staff enjoy interacting with pets. This suggests there are additional benefits to a pet-friendly approach.

The most common reason given by accommodation providers for refusing pets is health and safety. Pet owners are aware that there is a higher risk of mess when an animal is younger or is getting used to its new environment.

The pet-friendly services managed these risks through contracts and policies. For example, it was the responsibility of the owner to take care of, exercise, and clean up the pet. Other providers could accommodate pets by using similar policies.

Around 320,000 people are homeless in the UK. Andy Rain/EPA

Ownership of pets raises a number of ethical issues, both for owners and the veterinary field. You might argue that someone who is homeless shouldn’t have a pet. This ignores the possibility that the owner may have owned their pet prior to becoming homeless.

Around 320,000 homeless people live in the UK. This is 0.5% of all the population. Around 45% of UK homes own pets. When people become homeless their pets also become homeless.

The critics of pet ownership for homeless people also ignore the positive effects of the bond between a person and their animal. Numerous studies have revealed the importance of owning a pet for those who are socially isolated. Dogs are often the only source for physical, emotional and social support that homeless people receive.

In interviews, pets are described as a “family”. Homeless people who have pets experience less depression and loneliness than those without .

Further restrictions to public services will likely occur after a decade-long austerity program and challenges posed by COVID-19, Brexit and other factors. It is estimated that preventing one person from experiencing homelessness for a year would save the public over PS9,000 . Early intervention with people who are newly homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless is likely to be extremely cost-effective.

The human cost of being homeless is evident, as well as its financial impact. Homeless people die at a median age of 45 years for men, and 43 for women. This is compared to 76 and 80 years in the general population. It may seem trivial to think about pets during this crisis, but the evidence shows that they are an important social anchor for many of those who are most marginalized.

Many respondents in our research and other surveys report that they’d rather give up their pets than sleep on the streets. Local authorities will not house pet owners who refuse to give up their pets. They classify them as “intentionally homeless” and abdicate their responsibility. It’s therefore important to encourage more accommodation to accept pets.

Homelessness will likely increase

The UK is now preparing for the impact of pandemic on the economy. Homelessness will likely increase if government does not intervene. Housing systems are increasingly under strain. In response to COVID-19, the government launched “Everyone In”, a program that has helped move around 15 000 homeless people into hotels and safe spaces.

The Big Issue has made significant efforts to maintain momentum and avoid further homelessness. However, there are still many challenges, such as access to employment and mental health resources. the number of homeless people could increase as businesses fail and more people are laid off, and because the temporary ban on evictions will be lifted.

Everyone should have access to a safe sleeping place. Companionship is also a fundamental need. Many of us experienced the stress that comes with being separated from family and friends during lockdown. Our research shows that keeping people together with their families should be a top priority when they are vulnerable and socially isolated, even if the family members have a tail and fur.

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