Helping Homeless Pet Owners Keep Their Pets

Homeless owner and dogs

Often, homeless pet owners make tough decisions about keeping their pets. Learn about caring organizations that are helping pets and owners stay together.

Pets bring a great deal of joy and comfort, as well as better health, to their owner's lives, but financial problems can leave pet owners scrambling to hold onto pets, or any sense of normalcy. Sandy Swank, the director of housing and homeless services for Inter-Faith Ministries in Wichita, Kansas, says in a Wichita Eagle interview that homeless pet owners can find themselves faced with the painful decision of leaving a beloved pet behind in order to get a meal and spend a night in a shelter, or sleeping on the street.

Wilson and Free

Wilson B. was in such a situation after the factory where he worked shut down and he lost his home to foreclosure. Wilson confided via an exclusive email interview with Petcentric that he considered surrendering his dog, Free, to the local shelter when he learned he was losing his home. He said he was heartsick at the thought of giving up his best friend, but did not know where he was going to live.

Wilson feels he had it better than many homeless people at first, though. "I set up a tent at the local campground and lived in the tent with Free. It wasn't home, but at least we were together. I don't think I would have made it through that time to get where I am now if he hadn't been with me. But, I would have had a hard time getting a job, even if there were jobs around here to get, because I couldn't leave Free alone in the tent."

Help with Pet Care Costs

Wilson was not able to find help feeding or caring for Free during the transition to homelessness, but he managed to keep Free with him until he got back on his feet. According to Wilson, Free comforted him during the darkest time of his life and gave him a reason to keep fighting. However, if assistance, such as the programs mentioned below, had been available for Wilson and Free, the impact of losing their home might have been lessened, making it easier for them to stay together.

  • Veterinary care assistance: Programs such as Project Care, MSPCA, and Pets of the Homeless provide pets of homeless individuals with veterinary care. This helps ensure the health of the animals, which is important. Some shelters accept people with pets only if their pet is vaccinated.
  • Pet food assistance: Programs such as a pet food drive program or Pet Food Stamps reach out to financially challenged and homeless pet owners by providing food for hungry pets.

Homeless pet owners can seek help from these programs, or they can contact local veterinarians and shelters for help in finding ways to protect and keep their pets. Individuals interested in helping people who are down on their luck and facing homelessness with their pets can contact any of these organizations through their websites, or check with their local veterinarian, mission, or animal shelter for ways to help.