How to Help the Homeless Take Care of Their Pets
By Dr. Amanda Jondle
A licensed veterinarian and veterinary consultant for ThePets.
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It is an all too common site to see a homeless person with their pet, one that can evoke many different emotions. Ultimately, there is not one simple way to help homeless individuals and their pets. It is a huge societal problem. Even so, when we see a homeless person and their pet, what do we do? How can we help? How can we make even a little bit of a difference?
According to Feeding Pets of the Homeless, there are an estimated 3.5 million Americans experiencing homelessness and 25 percent of homeless people have pets – typically dogs or cats. There are many reasons why a homeless person might find themselves on the streets with or without a pet. The cause is often some kind of hardship such as domestic violence, mental illness, addiction, recent incarceration, lost homes, and lost jobs. Pets of the homeless provide them companionship, loyalty, comfort, and protection and sometimes help individuals face reality and responsibility in caring for another.
When we think about helping the homeless people, we start with the basics such as shelter, food, clothing, and medical care. The same is true for pets. We often wonder if the owner doesn’t have these basic needs, is the pet also not receiving the basic care of shelter, food, and medical attention? There are many wonderful organizations who dedicate their time and resources to helping care for the pets of the homeless. They provide several different ways we can all contribute.
Here are some ways to help the pets of the homeless.
- Offer some of your time to organizations who provide financial support, medical care to the homeless, veterinary medical care to the pets of the homeless, food to homeless people and pets, and more.
- Volunteer at a local homeless shelter and ask them how you can help. Find out how your local homeless shelter is providing support to the homeless for their pets. Not all homeless shelters are pet friendly. If they don’t currently have a support system for pets, find a way to start one.
- Volunteer at a local food bank. You can help receive donations for homeless people and their pets. Find local businesses to provide donations, sort incoming donations, and distribute food. Work with local food banks to provide pet food and supplies.
- Volunteer at a local soup kitchen. Talk to your local soup kitchen and ask how you can help. Find out if they are pet friendly or how you can help make them pet friendly. Organize food, water, and other resources for pets.
- Organizations such as Feeding Pets of the Homeless provide emergency and wellness veterinary care to the pets of the homeless. Volunteer to help with these clinics.
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- Contribute to non-profits, rescues, humane societies, pet shelters, homeless shelters, community centers, and other organizations who help the homeless and their pets.
- Organize a fundraiser event to enlist other members of your community to donate money to this cause.
- Start an online fundraiser through social media or a website to raise money for organizations who help the pets of the homeless.
- Find a local pet food pantry and donate food and other supplies to provide to the homeless for their pets.
- Host a pet food drive at a local business, church, or school to collect goods to donate to homeless shelters and pet food pantries.
- Organize donation sites at various business, churches, schools, or community centers where community members can donate resources to be distributed to the homeless and their pets.
- Not only do the pets of the homeless need food and veterinary care, they can also benefit from blankets, bedding, pet clothing, food and water bowls, toys, treats, crates or kennels, leashes, collars, paw booties, and just about anything else you think your pet would need.
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- Provide resources to homeless individuals. Make sure they know where to go if they are in need of food or other items for themselves or their pets. Make it easy and accessible for the homeless to find information and resources.
- Enlist local restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses to provide free, fresh, and clean water bowls for dogs (and cats) to drink from.
- Work with homeless shelters and soup kitchens to become pet friendly or to at least have designated areas that provide fresh water, food, and temporary rest to pets of the homeless.
- Work with pet food companies, pet stores, veterinary clinics, and other pet businesses to donating expired or extra food.
- Foster pets of the homeless.
- Work with local pet rescues and shelters or even as an individual to foster pets of the homeless and provide temporary shelter and care for them when their owner cannot or needs time to get back on their feet.
Get support from
- Pet food companies
- Local veterinarians
- Local homeless shelters
- Local humane societies, pet shelters, and pet rescues
- Pet stores
There are many national, statewide, and local resources that are already set up to help support pets of the homeless. Some organizations help to provide emergency and wellness veterinary care. Others provide pet food, other goods, and shelter.
Click here for a list of National Resources.
Click here for a list of State Resources.