Homeless pet owners: what needs to change?

New research from the United States says that veterinary professionals should not be solely responsible for homeless pet owners.


It also stresses the need for a multidisciplinary approach which would help enhance general knowledge around the specific challenges facing these clients – as well as finding solutions. 


They anticipate that the study, featured in Human-Animal Interactions, will serve as a focal point for forthcoming funding for research and support going forward. 


The study highlighted that “significant knowledge, intervention, and policy gaps still exist for this population,” despite advancements within the veterinary profession.


It contended that professionals aiming to enhance health outcomes must prioritise the “unique needs” of homeless pet owners, emphasising that “Failure to acknowledge the importance of the human-animal bond will lead to incomplete care.”


The report stressed that addressing this issue “is not an issue that should rely solely on the efforts of veterinary professionals but requires the combined efforts of healthcare providers, social workers, animal welfare workers, and governmental and non-profit organisations in order to develop innovative one health solutions.


“Homelessness is both a public health and a social justice concern and finding strategies to combat this complex epidemic will require the commitment and engagement of professionals from a wide variety of disciplines.”


The study emphasised various initiatives such as free veterinary clinics, integrated human/animal clinics, efforts to reduce stigma, fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, and the provision of pet-friendly accommodations as potentially more effective approaches to caring for homeless people and their pets. 


Co-author Michelle Kurkowski noted that while homeless individuals with pets reported significantly lower levels of depression and loneliness compared to those without pets, they still encounter significant obstacles, including the scarcity of accommodation options that allow pets.


Dr Kurkowski further remarked, “Similarly, our examination reveals that this demographic is less inclined to seek assistance, such as healthcare or employment services, possibly due to challenges in accessing public transportation and a lack of safe places to leave their pets.”