Homelessness: Keeping Pets In Temporary Accommodation
As many of us turn up the thermostats this winter and cosy up on the sofa with our furry friends, there remain many people in the UK who are facing homelessness or are street homeless, together with their pets.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government released homeless statistics for April 2020 – March 2021 which captured the data for everyone assessed under the Homelessness Reduction Act. The latest statistics now show that over 200,000 households are at risk of homelessness, with many of these households owning pets.
Owning a pet is very common amongst homeless individuals and although the UK stats on this are unknown, studies elsewhere report that 5-24 percent of homeless people own pets, with majority of these being dogs.
Many of those who are experiencing homelessness rely on pets for emotional support and safety. However, when requesting assistance with housing and homelessness, many of these applicants find that they are having to choose between keeping their pet and remaining street homeless, or accepting accommodation and giving up their pet.
Animal homelessness is a complex crisis in itself and it is clear that change is required, as more providers implement a ‘no pet policy’, without having attempted to work around this with applicants. Thousands of animals also have no guardian to take care of them, causing an increase in the number of abandoned animals in the UK. A change in how landlords perceive pets inside the home could decrease this number significantly, preventing healthy animals from being euthanised for lack of good homes.
While a new standard tenancy agreement is in place to help renters keep well-behaved pets, it is only relevant where parties are entering into longer term tenancies of two or more years, as opposed to temporary accommodation which is widely used within the UK, given the number of households that are at risk of homelessness and the lack of housing.
Despite landlords no longer being able to issue blanket bans on pets, no one should have to choose between a safe place to sleep or their pet, whether they are in temporary accommodation or long-term accommodation. Whilst change is still required, especially when homelessness in the UK continues to rise, charities such as Dogs Trust and StreetVet could help those who have chosen to stay loyal to their pets.
Through their Hope Project, Dogs Trust offer the following to homeless individuals and landlords:
- Veterinary schemes which provide free treatments to dogs whose owners are homeless;
- Welcoming dog schemes – Helping temporary accommodation providers become dog friendly and possibly coming to an agreement in housing the applicants’ pets; and
- Parcels which are sent out to dog owners with goodies inside.
Although some landlords work in partnership with the local authority to provide temporary accommodation, they should also be encouraged to become more pet friendly. Those without pets will not always understand the support a pet can provide to homeless individuals, but the bespoke welcoming dog’s scheme mentioned above could prevent this and allow tenants to keep their dog’s in temporary accommodation with them.
The welcome dogs scheme allows landlords to come to an agreement with their tenant by creating a plan and policy. It provides useful resources and risk assessments for the animal, and free vet care for any dog in temporary accommodation which will then provide landlords peace of mind when accepting tenants with pets, as they will have an agreement in place with the tenant solely in relation to their pet and what is expected of them. It also highlights the importance of pets and how this affects their tenant’s wellbeing. The package includes starter packs such as collars, leads, dog bowls, dog beds and toys, as well as ongoing support from the team. The scheme aims to minimise the concerns which temporary accommodation providers may have when considering whether a pet should be allowed to stay in temporary accommodation with their owner, and how they will be able to look after their pet and keep the property clean and free from damage.
If you find a homeless individual who is in need of veterinary assistance for their pet, there is a referral scheme which can be used to alert volunteers that help is required: More to Dogs Trust.
Overall, it is clear the amount of support a pet can provide to people, whether they are homeless or not. However, as a nation of dog lovers, there is still major change which needs to be made for those who require homelessness assistance and have a pet of their own. But in the meantime it is important to note that there are organisations who are able to assist those who are homeless with a pet, and have refused accommodation due having to choose between the two. So if you are looking to help someone who is street homeless with a pet, then please click the referral link above.