Owning a dog has been one of the most impactful life experiences for me. I grew up with two dogs and knew I would always own one myself. Leroy, my five-month-old Chihuahua-terrier mix, now takes up much of my time and energy. Leroy has gone to the bathroom various places throughout our house, vomited until 12:30 at night when I had work at 8:00 the next morning, and needs to be walked constantly. He recently discovered his powerful bark and is sure to use it often.
He also is hard to pick up because he gets so excited and squirmy and just wants to lick your face. When I come home after work, Leroy is so excited that his entire body starts wagging with his tail. When Leroy goes to the bathroom outside, I feel overwhelming pride and success that this living being I am responsible for is starting to learn and figure life out.
On any given night there are between 27,700-55,400 homeless pet owners with stories like these; but unforeseen situations such as unemployment and domestic violence cause their stories to end differently.
I can speak to the degree of devotion and responsibility that it takes to be a competent pet owner. This can limit the extent that homeless pet owners can care for themselves. Research shows that to homeless pet owners, feeding one’s pet often comes before feeding oneself. Homeless shelters rarely allow pets, forcing pet owners to sleep on the streets with their companions. Owning a pet comes with so many benefits, and it’s a shame to see responsible owners having to compromise self-care for pet-care.
Paws for the Homeless is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports homeless individuals and their pets by providing pet supplies and care to homeless pet owners through monetary donations and the donation of goods and services. The goal of Paws for the Homeless is to help alleviate the burden of pet ownership among homeless individuals. By providing homeless shelters and food banks across the country with pet food, leashes, harnesses, and crates, homeless pet owners have easier access to necessary materials. This makes it easier for homeless pet owners to reap the benefits of owning a pet with less of a burden, allowing them more flexibility in caring for themselves.
Homeless pet owners benefit psychologically and emotionally from the companionship and responsibility that pet ownership provides. From having a longstanding relationship, to having companionship in hard times, to the empowerment that comes from caring for another living being, owning a pet can be a great resource for anyone, especially people in need of support. Pets offer nonjudgmental, unconditional love for homeless people in a world where they are so often blamed for where they found themselves.
We are tackling this problem by gaging the need for and distributing pet supplies and services to homeless pet owners. There are approximately 554,000 homeless people every night in the United States. By identifying a subgroup in this population, we can better address the needs of smaller communities and specific individuals, effectively providing the specific resources that are requested.