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Homeless people to get more support to keep their pets

A dog - Image credit: m01229 via Flickr

Homeless people to get more support to keep their pets

Homeless people are to get more support to find accommodation where they can keep their pets.

A pet can improve physical and mental health and reduce loneliness and trauma, but many people faced with homelessness are forced to choose between accommodation and keeping their pet.

Some people end up sleeping rough as a result, because most homeless shelters, supported accommodation, bed and breakfasts and temporary furnished flats exclude pets.

However, new guidance aims to improve the way landlords and council services accommodate animals.

Produced by the Simon Community on behalf of the Scottish Government, the guidance recommends improved training for those working in homelessness services on the importance and benefits of supporting people to remain with their pets, as well as on how to work with animals.

It also calls for temporary shelters to introduce dog-friendly communal rooms or dog crates and for services to consider how policies such as curfews might affect pet owners.

It also suggests accommodation providers introduce pet guidelines that people agree to in order to access accommodation to offset the fear of the negative impacts of pets, while also carrying out risk assessments to ensure there are no issues with staff members being allergic to, or afraid of, animals.

In addition, the Simon Community is jointly funding a post with The Dogs Trust to employ a project worker to support voluntary and statutory services across Scotland to become dog and pet friendly.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “Pets offer comfort and stability and much-needed companionship.

“For someone facing homelessness it is already an extremely difficult time.

“Being forced to choose between their pets and a safe place to live is choice no one should have to make.

“That’s why I’m glad to see the positive recommendations in this report.

“It clearly sets out why pets matter and provides practical steps to support social landlords in helping people experiencing homelessness to maintain their relationships with their pets.

“A person-centred approach is a key part of our ambition for delivering the Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, and I’m clear that respecting people’s meaningful and important relationships with their pets is an important element of that.”

CEO of Simon Community 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.

“This document shares the experiences and opportunities to provide that approach.”

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