More may need to be done to encourage homeless dog owners to seek support for themselves and their pets, even without evidence of a lack of veterinary care.
New research from the University of Bristol Veterinary School has concluded a mutually beneficial relationship exists between homeless people and their dogs.
The analysis, which has now been published in the Zoophilologica Polish Journal of Animal Studies, also found no dogs that were lacking basic veterinary care.
But the researchers believe organisations that work with homeless people need to use their findings to explore ways of extending the help they provide.
Co-author Chelsie Bailey said the analysis, which was based on interviews with 21 owners in south-west England, had revealed inconsistencies in services provided by facilities that considered themselves to be “dog friendly”.
Dr Bailey said: “We found some shelters and day centres provided food, but didn’t allow dogs into the premises, which meant the owners were less likely to access proper support.
“Places that would allow owners to keep their pets with them at all times could help owners seek further support and access support properly.”
The paper also argued that, while allowing dogs to remain with their owners was likely to increase engagement with charitable service providers, requirements for dogs to be neutered to be eligible for some programmes may deter potential participants and has the potential to increase mistrust.
Co-author Nicola Rooney said specific education programmes may also help to address issues relating to thermal comfort, contact with other dogs and the ability to avoid potentially frightening situations.
But she added: “Dogs can play an incredibly important role in enhancing mental health, and this study shows this is equally true for the homeless community.
“Homeless dogs compared favourably to home-owned dogs in many areas when considering how their welfare needs were met.
“The dogs we studied had high levels of human companionship and access to veterinary care and flea and worm prevention.”
Credit to: Researchers urge removal of potential support barriers for homeless dog owners (Vet Times)
Vet Times. (2023). Researchers urge removal of potential support barriers for homeless dog owners [online]