How to help a homeless person with a pet

Mar 19, 2018 | by Kathy Lovin

It’s a common sight in many cities: homeless men and women with a dog on a leash or a cat curled up on the blanket beside them. Who can blame them. In many cases, their animal companion might be their closest friend, the only one left who hasn’t mistreated, judged or rejected them.

Have you ever wondered where a homeless job searcher would keep their pet while looking for work? Showing up for an interview with a birdcage in hand probably doesn’t make a good first-impression. And for those who live in their car, leaving a pet inside is unwise and sometimes illegal in many climates.

On an even more serious note, can you imagine leaving your beloved family dog with an abusive spouse so you could flee to safety?

In fact, almost half of women suffering domestic violence who have pets report that they put off entering a shelter because they were concerned about leaving their pet behind, according to the University of Denver’s Institute for Human-Animal Connection.

The presence of a pet in the life of someone in crisis is a good thing, a comforting thing. But it can also be a barrier that makes moving forward difficult. But there are several things you can do to help someone in this situation.

If there’s a pet parent in your life who needs to get away from a violent spouse, requires residential drug / alcohol rehabilitation, or is currently homeless here are some ways you can help them:

  1. Offer to provide a temporary foster home for their pet while they get the help they need. All that’s required is a separate space – like a bathroom or laundry room – where the pet can stay for a few days while getting acclimated. Before letting it mix in with your pets, be sure it’s been tested and vaccinated.
  2. Negotiate with a local pet boarding facility about a no fee or reduced rate for people who are in crisis then refer or take people there when they need help.
  3. Offer to pay for updated vaccinations so that the animal will be welcome at existing pet-friendly facilities. Currently, there are about 40 pet-friendly shelters in the US. Click here to find one near you.
  4. Talk to members or your church, Rotary Club, neighborhood, etc., about offering their homes or yards to the pet of a homeless person or someone in crisis and create a network of do-gooders.
  5. Give to The Salvation Army programs that are already ahead of this emerging trend and allow pets at their residence programs like The Salvation Army’s Crossroads Center in Denver, Colorado or The Salvation Army’s domestic violence safe haven in Pasco County, Florida

The Salvation Army team in Denver decided to create a space for pets at the downtown Crossroads Center shelter one cold, blizzardy night when a man came in with his dog and asked for help. The executive director said, “I wouldn’t want to choose between my dog and my life,” so she started figuring out what it would take to welcome pets and got the boss on board with the idea.

The Humane Society donated dog kennels and a member of their local police department got the necessary permits. Now there are a several dogs in residence at the shelter during the winter months when it’s too cold to stay outside.

We’re grateful for creative and innovative thinking that allows more people to get help while keeping their animal companion close. 

Thanks for using your life to make the world better for someone else. God bless you.

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