Throughout the country, there will be many homeless people and their pets during the festive period, when warmth and loving families are not part of their lives. No town or city is exempt from this heart-breaking situation, so spare a thought for those less fortunate than yourselves.
Homeless people often form a strong attachment to a dog or cat (and even small animals) to give them comfort – but how can we help them?
First and foremost, showing that you care often means a lot, even a kind word makes a lot of difference to what can essentially be a very lonely and isolated life. Showing affection to the only companion pet will certainly warm their hearts. Amongst the homeless community, a considerable amount has not chosen to live that way, but circumstances have meant that they have no option. Fortunately, there is help around in the form of shelters, where they can enjoy the company of others and a good Christmas lunch in warm surroundings.
Donations to charities such as the Salvation Army or Help the Homeless are always welcome, but how about going a step further and spending just an hour of your time in the lead up to Christmas and take a gift of food, warm clothing or blankets for both homeless humans and animals at the same time.
Charities such as Mayhew and Crisis have joined forces this Christmas to provide help and support for the homeless and their pets. Whilst these charities have worked together for over 11 years, this year they have launched a campaign to keep people and their pets together, providing essential support such as veterinary care, microchipping and pet supplies, which under normal circumstances would not be available – somewhat of a lifeline to enable them to continue keeping their pets for companionship and comfort. This support is ongoing, not just for Christmas, but this time of the year their efforts are even stronger.
If you cannot donate funds, think about donating your time in these ways:
Quite a few of the homeless run the risk of being parted from their pets at Christmas. The Daily Mirror recently reported that only 1 in 10 homeless hostels will also accept pets.
A champion of this cause is ‘Street Paws’, who operate in 18 cities throughout the country. With a team of 200 volunteer vets and veterinary nurses, they pace the streets looking for sick dogs that need urgent attention, providing them with on the spot treatment as required. Michelle Southern, founder of this amazing organisation is urging hostels to become more pet friendly and is also raising considerable funds to build kennels in key locations.
Michelle says, ‘many of the rough sleepers are so attached to their dogs, they would rather miss out on food and overnight accommodation to be with their animals.’ A lot of passers by wrongly think that these homeless people only keep their pets in order to get money from the sympathy vote. The opposite is true, with the owners going without food themselves to make sure their pets can survive.’
Michelle is constantly launching new schemes to help make both human and animal life on the streets much better. Her latest initiative is to provide care for dogs that have been left on the street, due to their owners being hospitalised. A process is underway to tag as many dogs as possible to be identified as ‘Street Paws’. Teams of people will then swoop in and collect the dogs, house and feed them, until the owner is fit enough to be reunited with their best friend.
Charities such as Crisis have kennels in one or two shelters that enable guests to enjoy everything that Crisis at Christmas has on offer while their dogs are cared for and pampered too. They provide veterinary checks, tummy rubs and plenty of goodies to get them through the winter. Volunteers will be required to monitor the dog’s health during their stay as some guests prefer not to use a vet. There are certain criteria that you must meet to become a volunteer but do call them to see if you can help.
Helping these wonderful causes (and many others) is only a phone call away. After all, it’s only your time and old possessions that mean the world to those with pets that are less fortunate.