Homeless People And Their Pets The relationship
In busy cities it is a common sight – a homeless person with a dog in tow. While some people look askance or try to ignore it, others realize the dedication it takes to keep these pets healthy. Would you go without a meal – maybe your only meal that day – for your dog? This is often what a homeless person is faced with on a regular basis. Combine this with the need to avoid those who believe they are doing “what’s best” for the animal. Humane Societies, animal control, well-wishers and vets may all come between a homeless person and their beloved animal. Homeless shelters also contribute to the problem.
While it may be easy for someone to go to and spend the night in a shelter, this does not hold true for someone with a pet. Shelters tend to handle individuals. It has only been recently that they have even thought to address the needs of couples. Dogs and other pet lovers who happen to be homeless are not exactly a priority. Yet they should be.
People who have a respectable roof over their heads are not the only ones who require the comfort and happiness a pet brings. Medical research has shown the health benefits realized from owning a pet. They are now part of strategies to help communication, reduce blood pressure and help with other medical and psychological issues in various programs. Some groups bring pets regularly into Retirement Homes.
As for pets and homeless people - Homeless people have indicated the reasons why they keep their pets rather than take an easier route. They know that owning a pet is a responsibility. They are also aware of the rewards such ownership provides. A pet gives them a sense of stability in a very uncertain world. A pet is companionship, protection and a sense of worth or even some form of normality.
At the, Ontario Veterinarian College in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, research has been underway to discover more about the relationship existing between the homeless and their pets. Researchers, under Dr. Jason Coe, Assistant Professor in the Department of Population Medicine, and Dr. Michelle Lem have begun to look at this particular issue in regards to homeless youths. They are working to identify the complex bonds between the two living entities. They also want to clarify the barriers that exist preventing this segment of the homeless population from accessing what many Canadians and even Americans consider necessary parts of life - healthcare professionals, social services and shelters.
While several shelters have realized how essential it is, many still have failed to recognize the need to provide shelter for more than the two-legged homeless. This is part of the overall approach. Only recently has a partnership been forged between various animal welfare organizations and women’s shelters. Some foster homes are now arranged so abused women can bring their pets safely there and not with an abusive partner. Homeless shelters need to adopt a similar approach.
It is too easy to pass judgment on those who walk the streets with their pets. For most animals, home is not under a roof, but with the person they are bonded to. When it comes to the homeless, the animal generally prefers to be where he or she is – on the streets. As long as he or she is well taken care of, there should be no objection raised. A life on the street in most cases is far better than being placed on death row in an animal shelter.
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