Homeless People and Their Pets

Do you often consider the welfare of pets belonging to homeless people? On a Christmas night out catching up with my friends from school, we all commented on how many homeless people were out on the cold streets of Manchester trying to keep warm. Most had canine companions which sparked the conversation about the welfare of pets belonging to homeless people and whether they should be re-homed or not.

A couple of weeks later in the New Year, David Williams, an associate lecturer at Cambridge University Veterinary School, presented a webinar on ethics. During this webinar, David briefly spoke about a paper he published in Pet Behaviour Science (2016) with Sarah Hogg titled, “The health and welfare of dogs belonging to homeless people”. The methodology used to collect data for this study included the use of a questionnaire and clinical examinations. David and Sarah successfully recruited 50 homeless dog-owner pairs in Cambridge and London. Thirty-eight non-homeless dogs were recruited whilst owners were walking their dog within the sampling areas plus an additional twelve healthy dogs were recruited from vaccination or post-operative examinations from an RSPCA clinic to ensure the two group sizes were equal. In this study, dogs belonging to homeless people were less likely to have behavioural problems, had more exercise, had a lower body condition score and in terms of physical abnormalities, there were no significant differences between the two groups. There was a significant difference in age between the two groups, with homeless dogs being younger than the homed dogs which is a confounding factor that could have had an impact on the results.

If you would like to read this open access paper, here is the link:

If you’d like to watch David’s webinar, you can use the link below:

So in true Baader-Meinhof phenomenon style, on the front page of the Vet Times (also in January) there was an article about Jade Statt, a vet who is providing free health checks and treatment for dogs belonging to homeless people in London. The Blue Cross donates medications and the homeless pets are subsequently registered with the charity. Pets who require further medical attention are referred to the Blue Cross Victoria Animal Hospital. Jade joined the #dosomethingfornothing campaign founded by hairdresser Josh Coombes, who has been providing free haircuts for almost two years. Jade has a website, where you will find lots of inspirational photographs of Jade’s hard work. You can also contact Jade via her website if you’d like to get involved or provide donations.

BBC Three have a catalogue of short video clips for their series ‘Amazing Humans’, one of which features a young vet, Ruby Shorrock, who like Jade treats homeless dogs. There are similar schemes that have been rolled out in other cities too. In the video clip, there is one person who talks about passing on the opportunity of having accommodation because he was told he would have to have his dog euthanised. You can watch the short video link using the link below:

I can only begin to imagine how difficult being homeless must be and I think having my little Mildred to talk to and walk is a massive help for me on tricky days (and has been known to lick my salty tears on my face). I think I can safely say that every day would be a tricky day if I were homeless so I think that having a canine companion would benefit my health. My original concerns regarding the health of homeless pets have been reduced thanks to David’s study and the work of ‘amazing humans’ like Jade and Ruby. I am also aware that some university vet schools in the UK have similar schemes involving vet students so bravo to the teaching staff at those institutions for creating those programmes.

Feeling inspired? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Blease’s Blog


5 responses to “Homeless People and Their Pets”

  1. Jayne Laycock says:

    This really is inspiring. There is little doubt that we are seeing more homeless people on our streets and so reassuring to know their pets are generally in good health and have amazing vets like Ruby and Jade taking care of them. I’ve already checked out the street vets website and have been inspired to explore how I also can provide some help for our homeless and their pets.
    Thanks for a great blog,

  2. Stacey Blease says:

    Hi Jayne,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog and for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated!

    Best Wishes, Stacey

  3. Sarah says:

    Another Vet who runs a similar clinic is based in Nottingham with the charity Vets in the Community. The founder’s just won CEVA’s Vet of the Year!

  4. Lynne says:

    This is of great interest to me. I have been a paramedic for 20 years in a large urban Bay Area city and of course encountered many homeless and their pets, usually dogs. I initially had a gut reaction of “that dog deserves better”, having assumed the person was using the dog to help in their panhandling appeals. I came to see that was not usually the case at all. The dogs were quiet, polite, affectionate to their owners and neutral to most other dogs and people. They did seem to be often overweight (which initially surprised me) and their quiet, seen-it-all demeanor would change if the owner’s belongings or the owner itself was touched. So they did resource guard pretty vigorously. The owners were as devoted to their dogs as the dogs to them and more than once we ended up transporting both dog and human in the ambulance to the hospital, with Animal Control meeting us there to take the dog for sheltering. It was not unusual for a bystander to call to report an “unconscious man” outside Animal Control and we would arrive to find that it was actually a homeless person newly discharged from the hospital and sleeping outside AC so they could be first in the door to claim their dog.

  5. Holly Dyson says:

    Hi, enjoyed reading this article and hearing about this paper! I am a fourth year vet student from Bristol, and have recently set up an organisation aiming to help the homeless with dogs after being inspired by other vet school projects! We’re called the Bristol Paws Project. It’s nice to see that awareness of the issues seems to be spreading.

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