Homeless Pets And How You Can Help Them
Approximately 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless. This includes both those who are chronically homeless, and those who are temporarily homeless due to events like losing a job or a home foreclosure. Somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of those 3.5 million people aren’t on the streets alone, but with their pets.
How does this happen? Someone may already own a pet when they’re evicted from their home, and they don’t want to give the animal up, so they keep it, even as they sleep in tents or doorways. Or, someone who is homeless may come upon a stray animal, and decide to take care of it. That a person without a home or money to buy food would take on the care of a pet is a testament to the bond people have with their pets, and to how having a pet can have a positive effect on a person’s emotional and mental state. But homeless pets are still in danger.
Why This is a Problem
In some ways, this can be seen as a good thing. Better for someone—even someone without a home—to be looking after an animal than that animal running free where it can possibly be run over, or starve to death. The thing is, because a homeless person lacks the financial ability to properly care for a pet, there is still a danger of disease. Someone living on the street can’t afford pet meds, even common ones like flea and tick treatments or heartworm preventatives.
All it takes for a dog to get heartworm is being bitten by a mosquito carrying them. Without the proper medication, any dog living outside is vulnerable. In addition, a homeless person cannot pay to have an animal spayed or neutered, so there’s an additional risk of the homeless pet contributing to the already staggering dog and cat overpopulation problem.
How You Can Help
Because pets are seen as property, it’s not possible to simply seize an animal from a homeless person if there’s no indication of actual abuse. The truth is, most homeless people try very hard to care for their pets, sometimes using their last bit of money not to buy food for themselves, but for their pets.
Instead, you can help by donating food and supplies to help these people care for their pets until they are in a position to do so on their own. Organizations like Pets of the Homeless have set up collection points across the country to accept donations of food, treats, flea and tick treatments, leashes, and collars. Some homeless shelters and soup kitchens will sometimes also accept donations of pet food, but be sure to call and ask before simply dropping something off that may not be distributed.
By donating through a recognized and participating organization, you can be sure that your contribution will go to help the animals—and their owners—who so desperately need it. And you’ll have improved not just one life, but two.
Note from the Editor: If you’re in Austin, Texas and looking for help for either you or someone you know, Animal Trustees of Austin offers free services to homeless people and their pets. They are located on IH35 and 51st Street. Check their website or grab a card from their office!
About the Author: Caroline Ruddy is a freelance writer finally pursuing her dream of being published. She loves books and movies, especially when they include a furry friend napping on her lap. Want to write for ILRA? We’d love to here from you – find out what you can do to help!