An animal, typically a dog, but not exclusively so, seated beside someone who is obviously living on the street is a relatively familiar sight around the UK. As you would imagine, very few people choose to live on the street. The reasons why someone ends up on the street are numerous, but sometimes the reason is that person has been unable to secure accommodation which permits pets.
Those living on the street rarely have any regular income and the care of their pet beyond feeding can be a huge challenge. That is where StreetVet comes in. We’ve asked Tammie O’Leary, a volunteer with StreetVet to tell us about an exciting new project within StreetVet and her plans to raise money to help pay for it.
Dogs are vital companions to homeless people
Many of the dogs by the side of those living on the street have been their companions for many years, often from before they were sleeping rough. It is sometimes said that the human keeps the dog safe during the day and the dog keeps the human safe at night. For many, their dogs are their only consistent companion. Many will prioritise their dog before themselves, feeding them and providing everything they can to keep their dog safe and warm, to their own detriment. Being able to afford veterinary bills as well can be an impossibility for those living on the streets or in hostels.
When a person finds themselves homeless, it is a daily struggle to undertake the most ordinary of activities. While having a dog supports a person’s mental health and enriches their lives, it also adds complication. Accessing medical care for one can be difficult. The StreetVet team of volunteer vets and vet nurses assist owners in keeping their pets in good health. This is an enormous weight off their mind in what is a highly stressful way of living.
StreetVet are a registered charity offering free accessible vet care to pets belonging to those experiencing homelessness in 17 locations across the UK. I have been volunteering with StreetVet for over a year. The team all have similar ethics and importantly they care for the human and animal in equal measure. Our vision is to ensure that every pet owning, homeless person (ie those without permanent residence) has access to high quality, professional vet care for the welfare of the pet & of the owner alike.
The public have been amazing in their support of StreetVet since its inception in 2016, understanding the importance of a companion for people living in extremely difficult circumstances. Funds raised go towards vaccinations, medication and lab tests such as blood and urine, and similar activities. Many vet practices offer their facilities for free if a more significant intervention is required.
The pandemic has made fundraising harder for all charities and StreetVet has also inevitably been impacted since it has not been possible to run events and raise awareness, especially with more pressure on everyone’s finances. In this environment, we are having to work harder to raise more funds as homelessness has increased during to the pandemic. While many homeless individuals were given shelter, with only 10% of hostels currently accepting pets, it has raised the issue of the lack of pet friendly hostels. Research has shown that fewer than 7% of homeless pet owners would give up their dog in exchange for housing.
Pet Friendly Homeless Hostels
To address this, StreetVet has launched the StreetVet Accredited Hostel Scheme. The ambitions of the scheme are clear, to maximize the potential for hostels able to accommodate both human and animal residents. StreetVet wants to ensure nobody has to choose between their pet and a roof over their heads. In response to feedback from hostels, we have developed a comprehensive scheme to offer training and wrap-around support, enabling hostels to adopt positive pet policies. It is our hope that our 10 point Accreditation Scheme will provide hostels with the confidence and assurance they require to accept homeless people with pets.
Hostels offer those living on the street access to essential services and help them in their path to transitioning off the streets, ultimately leading to a reduction in rough sleeping. With up to 25% of those living on the street owning a pet, pet friendly accommodation is vital to the work undertaken to reduce homelessness.
As well as supporting and training hostel staff and ensuring facilities are appropriate, essential equipment such as food, bowls and leads will be provided for free as will 24/7 veterinary care. The scheme is in its infancy so we are working hard to raise awareness in order to recruit as many of the approximately 1200 hostels in the UK as we can to the scheme.
Fund Raising for Hostels
Last year I took on my first half marathon to raise much needed funds. This year I am running the virtual London Marathon in October. It is my first attempt at a full marathon and ai look at it with a mixture of excitement and fear! I would love to be able to beat my target of £1500, I am two thirds the way to reaching this target. Every donation helps me when my legs are feeling weary during training! I am inspired to fundraise for StreetVet as any of us with pets at home can understand what their companionship means, no more so than over this past year.
Can you imagine having to make a choice between accepting a hostel room, but only if you gave your pet up? That is why the hostel scheme is so vital. The human-animal bond is an important part of StreetVets work.
Support Tammie's Fundraising
My Just Giving Page is https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tammie-o-leary1
Tammie works as a Business Development Manager for a Veterinary Pharmaceutical company that specialises in behaviour, cardiology, feline hypertension and dermatology. She has always worked within animal health and enjoys working towards improving animal health. She confesses to an addiction to horses and currently has a homebred and a cob for her daughter. The family’s dog is a rescue 3-legged pointer called Pebbles who is ‘mighty fast’ despite his three legs! Previously she had an English Springer, Ringo, from puppy through to aged 14. “I understand the breadth of emotion pet owners go through, that is one of the reasons I volunteer with StreetVet. The Human-animal bond is crucial to so many of our daily lives, whatever the circumstances.”