Emma Newton, William Gilles, DVM, Janet Hoy
Existing literature reveals that people experiencing homelessness with companion animals have restricted ability to access shelter and housing services (Cronley, Strand, Patterson & Gwaitney, 2009; Kidd & Kidd, 1994; Singer, Hart, & Zasloff, 1995; Slatter, Lloyd, & King, 2012). In the event that people experiencing homelessness are presented with the ultimatum of seeking shelter/housing or staying with their animal, many will choose to remain on the streets with their pets. What the research does not address is how to build policies and programs to accommodate animals in homeless services successfully.
Despite limited best practices in the macro and mezzo spheres of addressing homelessness and animal companionship, community groups have managed to develop programs to bridge the gap in services. The presentation will review how various organizations from across the United States meet the challenge of increasing access to shelter for people experiencing homelessness with companion animals. Methods range from creating a foster care network, kenneling animals at affiliated partners’ facilities, and advocating for on-site co-sheltering at homeless shelters. Methods for increasing housing and shelter options for homeless human-animal families must be recognized in order to build the evidence base and best practices. In conclusion, the presentation will shed new light on emerging practices currently being utilized to encourage greater attention and research in the area of sheltering people experiencing homelessness and their companion animals.