On Sunday, July 16, 2023, in Denver, the Colorado Convention Center Set Up Shop to Treat Homeless People’s Pets
A free clinic recently opened in Denver to serve homeless people’s pets. The clinic, strategically positioned in the Colorado Convention Center, is the fruit of a collaborative effort between the Street Dog Coalition and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Some of the free services made available to homeless people’s furry friends included:
- Vaccinations for heartworm, rabies, parvo, fleas, ticks, and Bordetella, to name a few
- Medication distribution and other treatments that fall under the umbrella of general care
In addition to services, pet owners were given various supplies ranging from hygiene kits and leashes to collapsible water bowls, collars, and even toys.
Heartwarming photos of the event are available online to peruse. They feature an unparalleled sentiment of love between homeless people and the prized pets they depend on for companionship, love, and support.
The experience is heartfelt and, in some cases, could be lifesaving.
Why Do So Many Homeless People Have Pets?
Homelessness can be an altogether lonely and isolating experience. Many people who have lived through it first-hand have described it as a feeling of unwanted invisibility, of staring out into a world that looks right through you, never seeing or acknowledging your pain. For this reason and many more, pet ownership can be therapeutic for unhoused people.
A 2016 study published in the National Library of Medicine estimates that almost one-fourth of the homeless population has at least one pet. This is a staggering number considering that millions of people endure homelessness yearly. While it is difficult to quantify the number of pets living through homelessness with their owners on any given night, it would be impossible to place a number on their worth.
That same study identified several key components to pet ownership amongst homeless youths in California. According to the pet owners’ accounts, having pets provides all of the following comforts that many homeless youths might not otherwise receive:
- Companionship – 84% of survey respondents claimed their pets kept them company in a world where they were often socially isolated.
- Love – Beyond mere companionship, more than 79% of survey respondents said their pets made them feel loved. More than 70% said owning a pet made them proud they had someone to love.
- Safety – Most participants also cited safety as a key feature of pet ownership. More than 64% stated that their pet protects them, and 72% said their pet instills a sense of security.
The above attributes make pet ownership a preferable feature for homeless people. However, close to 67% of survey participants found it difficult to see a vet. Just as humans living on the streets desperately need treatment and medicine, so do their four-legged friends.
Ongoing Care is Vital to Future Survival
Denver’s volunteer veterinarian-run event is a small step in a great direction. Perhaps the most optimistic aspect of the story is that during their visit to the clinic, homeless pet owners were given vouchers and referrals to receive care later down the line and to continue on a path toward healing.
Armed with vaccinations for the present and vouchers for the future, many of these pet owners can hold onto a glimmer of hope. But more precautions must be taken to protect the homeless community and their beloved pets from falling ill with treatable ailments and diseases.
It’s important to note that many people enduring homelessness lack the access to transportation required to use those vouchers, and many homeless shelters do not accept pets. When polled, most unsheltered homeless people said they would not abandon their pets in favor of one night on a warming shelter floor, or for any other reason, for that matter.
In a telling interview with live reporters, one homeless abuse victim made the following statement about her pet:
“I’ve been through so much abuse in my life; she’s going to be my emotional support animal, so it’s super important because she’s like my other half.”
Housing and Healthcare Are Vital to the Homeless Community and their Four-Legged Friends. Please Urge Your Politicians to Make Housing a Human Right.
Homeless people and their pets are constantly in danger of dying or becoming seriously injured due to a lack of access to healthcare and other resources. From exposure to harsh weather conditions and hazardous waste materials to violent interactions with law enforcement officials, these furry friends and our fellow human beings continue to suffer.
The most adequate and cost-effective fix is to provide optimal healthcare in the form of permanent supportive housing. Please urge your local politicians to bring these animals in from the storm by making housing an irrevocable human right.