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Dog owners experiencing homelessness in Scotland given vital lifeline by charity partnership

No one should have to choose between a safe place to sleep and their pet.

A year-long partnership between the UK's largest dog welfare charity Dogs Trust and leading homelessness charity Simon Community Scotland, has successfully increased accommodation and support options for dog owners experiencing homelessness in Scotland. Through engagement with homelessness service providers in Scotland, a total of 30 have signed up since the launch of the project to develop dog-friendly policies and begin accepting referrals from dog owners. 

This includes three charities that have developed a charity wide pet-policy, and the project continues to support their services across the country to welcome pet owners. Launched in September 2020, the jointly funded role between the two charities was developed to ensure that fewer dog owners in Scotland have to make the heart-breaking choice between a safe place to sleep or staying with their dog.

The findings from Dogs Trust and Simon Community Scotland’s partnership highlighted that a lack of pet-friendly policies in homelessness accommodation services is a significant problem for those facing homelessness. The charities’ joint dedicated, 1-year Pets and Housing Project has been working with homelessness organisations across Scotland to provide tailored support so they can remove barriers and open their doors to dog owners through the ‘Welcoming Dogs’ scheme operated by Dogs Trust.

Cat Birt, Pets and Housing Engagement and Development Officer, who leads on the Pets and Housing Project, said:

"I'm really proud of everything that has been achieved over the last year, despite the challenges we have faced as a result of the pandemic, and it has been great to see first-hand how our work has impacted people's lives. 

"For people facing homelessness, they are more likely to be isolated and detached from society and their pet can be the most loving and consistent relationship they have. We are a nation of dog loved, and know how pets enrich our lives, so it is vitally important homelessness services recognise the importance of the human-animal bond and make changes to their policies, so they provide a service inclusive of pet owners."

Cat Birt

Pets and Housing Development and Engagement Officer

Hugh Hill, Director of Services and Development at Simon Community Scotland, said:

"At the heart of the project was recognising the incredibly positive bond between a dog and their human and the positive difference it made for people at their lowest ebb. The impact of Covid-19 has been challenging but what it did do was really highlight the importance of positive, meaningful and loving relationships in all our lives and for the people we support they often only experienced that connection with their dog. Every one of our services is dog-friendly and we will continue to share our approach and resources to any organisation looking to welcome our furry friends."

A comprehensive report covering the Pets and Housing Project between Dogs Trust and Simon Community Scotland has been compiled which highlights the progress made over the last year along with findings and recommendations to help ensure that people and their pets can continue to stay together. To read the report get in touch with us

Dogs Trust will be building on the amazing progress of this project with two new regional roles dedicated to increasing accommodation and support options for dog owners experiencing homelessness and is calling on more homelessness services across Great Britain to adopt a pet-friendly approach. Dogs Trust can support services through their Welcoming Dogs scheme, providing tailored advice and resources on accepting and managing dogs in a safe and responsible way, as well as through the Hope Project veterinary scheme which provides free veterinary treatment.