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"People should not be left to choose between their pet and having a shelter"

"People should not be left to choose between their pet and having a shelter" - Jack Sargeant MS and Dogs Trust drive campaign to support homeless pet owners

In the run up to International Dog Day (26th August), Jack Sargeant MS has been working with Dogs Trust to develop a 'Pet Friendly Pawlicy for Wales' which aims to make more accommodation accessible to homeless pet owners.

A dog can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life, providing companionship, a sense of purpose and love, and in some cases a reason to live. But for some, when accommodation is offered, it comes with the condition of giving up their pet, an impossible decision to make.

The campaign argues homeless people should be supported in keeping their pets as they improve both mental and physical health, reduce loneliness and can increase engagement with life-saving support services, which is particularly important given homeless people are more likely to experience multiple and complex needs such as mental ill health, drug and alcohol addiction, and family breakdown.    

As a result of the current coronavirus pandemic, homelessness charities and housing providers have gone above and beyond to ensure appropriate accommodation has been found in order to get people off the streets and into safety. It’s important this level of support continues as lockdown eases and that there are options available, across different types of accommodation, for homeless dog owners in Wales.

Jack Sargeant, Member of the Senedd for Alyn and Deeside, will be holding a roundtable event in the coming months, bringing together a range of stakeholders including Dogs Trust, homeless charities and landlord associations to discuss how to take forward the pet friendly pawlicy.

Jack Sargeant MS said:

“My involvement in this was inspired by a conversation with a homeless man about his pet.  His story about not being able to access accommodation and keep his dog, really struck a chord with me.  I am a dog lover myself and couldn’t abandon my own dog, so why should he?”

Jack Sargeant

Member of the Senedd for Alyn and Deeside

“I am extremely grateful to Dogs Trust for the work they have done to get this campaign going and to all of the stakeholders I have met with.  There was real consensus on the basic premise that people should not be left to choose between their pet and having a shelter.”

Clare Kivlehan, Head of Outreach Projects at Dogs Trust, added:

“We very much welcome the opportunity to work with Jack Sargeant MS and local stakeholders on this campaign to increase accommodation opportunities for homeless dog owners in Wales.  For more than 25 years, we’ve been supporting hostels and housing providers to accept homeless pet owners through our ‘Welcoming Dogs’ scheme. 

“Our work in this area has provided us with a unique insight into the needs of both homeless pet owners and those organisations supporting them, and by actively assisting hostels to become pet friendly we can help ensure that no one has to face the heart-breaking decision of choosing between a safe place to sleep and having to give up their closest companion.”

Dr Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, Chief Executive at Wales’ leading homelessness charity The Wallich concluded:

“It’s common for a person to derive comfort and friendship from owning a pet, and enjoy the healthy sense of responsibility that comes with it. People who happen to be experiencing homelessness are no different, owning a dog whilst sleeping rough offers companionship, warmth and protection.”

“At The Wallich, we understand the importance of allowing individuals access to services, whilst also being able to accommodate their dogs. The majority of our projects across Wales accept not only dogs, but a whole range of pets.  We hope that this policy will ensure that no one experiencing homelessness, or at risk of homelessness will have to make the heart-breaking decision of leaving their pet behind, in order to get help.”