Homeless with Pets

Living Homeless with Animal Companions

The strength of the bond between people and their animal companions is well documented; people make huge sacrifices for their animals.  Just because someone is living homeless does not reduce the strength of the bond or the willingness to make a sacrifice for an animal companion.  Indeed the bond for some will be stronger, people living homeless are with their animal companions 24/7 for 365 days of the year and huge sacrifices may be made, like deciding to live in a vehicle rather than surrendering an animal companion to be able and go into a shelter.  For many people living homeless their animal companion is their main source of social and emotional support.

There is much research on the value of having companion animals. Examples include:

  • helping reduce heart rate and blood pressure in stressful situations
  • dogs helping encourage exercise and getting out into the community
  • dogs functioning as a social lubricant, encouraging conversations about the pet and making the person seem more approachable
  • dogs making people seem more trustworthy

So why should it be any different if someone is living homeless with their animal companion ? 

Homeless people described their animal companions and the roles that they played in their lives in multiple ways. As:

  • a friend and companion
  • unconditional love
  • a being who lightens their day, being amusing and cute
  •  a reason for being
  • a reason to not get into trouble, to not get too drunk or use too many drugs
  • someone to care for and to be responsible for
  • someone who offers affection 'with no strings' unlike people
  • someone to be an advocate for  
  • someone who is depending on them

The vast majority of homeless people who have spoken about their animals were very concerned to do a good job in looking after their companion animal but often did not have the financial resources to do so.

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