Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pets and the Homeless

Last week at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, Dr. Liz Boggan generously donated her time and resources to treat the pets of our homeless clients.  Each of the dogs and cats were updated on their vaccinations, de-wormed and examined for health problems, as well as scheduled for spay and neuter at the owner’s request at McKamey Animal Center free of charge.  We want to thank her so much for coming out!

There are an estimated 3.5 million individuals who experience homelessness every year in the US, but that number is dwarfed by the number of pets who are homeless.  While it is difficult to actually estimate how many strays are out there, 5 – 7 million animals enter shelters every year, indicating that the homeless pet population must be much larger.  Around 65% of the animals who enter shelters are euthanized: 3 – 4 million pets are put down every year.

Pets can provide companionship and support sometimes beyond what humans can give each other!  Given that homelessness can often be a lonely and isolating experience, it is no wonder that those experiencing homelessness would want to have a pet.  In fact, the Executive Director of the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimates that 5% - 10% of homeless individuals have pets, with those numbers reaching up to 25% in rural areas. 

However, it is imperative for the sake of the owner and the pet for each individual to approach the experience responsibly.  Many homeless shelters will not allow individuals to bring in an animal and owning a pet could also be a barrier to housing.  More than that, properly caring for a pet can be a significant financial burden, including not just food and shelter, but also medical expenses to ensure the animal’s health. 

We are constantly working to end the condition of homelessness in Chattanooga and always innovating new ways to get our clients back into a job, back into financial stability, and back in permanent housing!  We are all about the solutions that are not just a band-aid on the problem, but a long-term fix.  For pets, part of the solution to end the terrible overpopulation problem is to spay and neuter both strays and our pets.   

Both people and pets need stability and the resources for necessary care.  At the Community Kitchen, we encourage our clients to put off pet ownership until they can get back into steady housing and have the means and the comfort to care for another.  

For more information or resources on low-cost or free spay and neuter programs for pets or feral animals, visit McKamey Animal Center or Wally's Friends.  Both programs also offer low-cost vaccinations.