Dogs shouldn’t be a barrier to homeless people securing shelter

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This week’s short debate was lead by Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) on attitudes towards dogs by homeless shelters.

A strong bond that shouldn’t be broken

Jack Sargeant said nations were often judged on how they treat their most vulnerable and, sadly, Wales was failing the homeless.

For many homeless people, their dog might be their only source of strength and companionship. Nonetheless, most homeless shelters operate “no dogs” policies and only eight hostels in Wales were deemed to be dog-friendly by the Dogs Trust.

“Now, some will say that the person looking for accommodation should just give away their dog…. I could never do that, and that is a decision they definitely should not have to make. There are many benefits to accepting dogs into hostels, not just for the owners and the dogs themselves, but for staff and other residents. When homeless people are forced to choose between their dog and a hostel place, most will, understandably, choose to stay with their dog, as their dog is most often their best friend, their companion. The bond between any dog owner and a dog is a strong one, but it will never be more so than with that of homeless people.”
– Jack Sargeant AM

Opening up shelters to homeless people with dogs will ensure the person has access to advice and support, while the dog can access veterinary schemes. There was also a need to ensure people can take dogs with them when they move from shelters and hostels to more secure housing.

A crucial companion

Deputy Minister for Local Government & Housing, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West) was sympathetic to the plight of homeless people with dogs.

“I absolutely agree that a person’s dog should not be a barrier to them coming into services and it’s completely unacceptable that this is sometimes the case. I am aware that, increasingly, many of our hostel emergency provisions across Wales do cater for companion pets. However, in the majority of cases, this also quite rightly includes a risk assessment and can be determined at the discretion of the landlord or on-site project manager.”
– Deputy Minister for Local Government & Housing, Julie James

The long-term solution was, of course, providing more permanent housing; emergency accommodation will never be enough by itself. Under any future “Housing First” policy, pets will be recognised and taken into account when sourcing housing.