Homeless people 'should not be split from pets to access accommodation and support'

The researchers found some people felt they had no option but to sleep rough as gaining accommodation was dependent on them giving up their pet.
The researchers found some people felt they had no option but to sleep rough as gaining accommodation was dependent on them giving up their pet.
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Homeless pet owners should not be split from their animals to access accommodation and support, a new report has said.

Homelessness charity the Simon Community produced the report for the Scottish Government, having spoken to people sleeping rough in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Researchers also spoke to various organisations including homeless service providers, landlords, vets and animal charities.

They said there was no evidence to suggest people cannot look after a pet if they are homeless and animals living on the street have been found to be healthy and cared for.

The report contains several recommendations to help homeless people keep their pets, including for temporary shelters to have dog-friendly communal areas or dog crates.

Others include improved training for service staff in working with animals and supporting people to remain with their pets, and introducing pet-friendly policies which people sign up to in order to access accommodation.

The charity is jointly funding a homeless pet-friendly officer with the Dogs Trust to support voluntary and statutory services across Scotland to become pet friendly.

Simon Community chief executive Lorraine McGrath said: "No-one should ever be placed in a position where they have to choose between a safe place to stay or their pet.

"What makes this choice even harder is the trauma and loss many of the people we support have experienced.

"Being asked to give up the only constant in their lives that gives them company, purpose, security and love, simply adds more trauma and loss to an already awful journey.

"The great thing is it doesn't have to be like that: being dog and pet-friendly isn't that hard."

Housing minister Kevin Stewart launched the report at an event in Edinburgh.

In a foreword to the document, he said: "For someone experiencing the loneliness of homelessness, being forced to choose between the relationship of trust and affection with their pet and a safe place to live where their pet can't follow can be a no-brainer - people often choose their animal.

"That's why I'm glad to see this report produced by the Simon Community. It clearly sets out why pets matter and provides practical steps to support social landlords in helping people experiencing homelessness to maintain pet relationships.

"Many services across Scotland already have good practice in place, but in a significant number of local authority areas there is little or no provision.

"I would ask all local authorities to work with services in their areas to ensure they treat all users with dignity and respect and act to implement pet-friendly policies."