Dogs Trust support for homelessness organisations and homeless dog owners during Coronavirus

Dogs Trust’s Hope Project has been supporting homeless dog owners across the UK for over 25 years. In the past two weeks alone, the Hope Project’s website, dedicated to helping homeless hostels welcome dogs, has seen a 154% increase in visits, compared to the same period last month.

During the coronavirus outbreak, and in accordance with Government guidelines, people sleeping rough and other homeless people are being supported into hotel and emergency accommodation in order to enable them to self-isolate. However, for many homeless people their dog is their best friend and main companion, so they are unlikely to move into alternative accommodation if they can’t take their dog with them as it means giving up their beloved pet.

To ensure as many dogs and their owners remain together during the coronavirus outbreak, Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, has adapted its Welcoming Dogs Scheme providing ongoing support and guidance on how hotels and other temporary accommodation can accept and manage dogs.

Clare Kivlehan, Head of Dogs Trust Outreach Projects said:

"People experiencing homelessness, particularly those who are rough sleeping, are thought to be more at risk of contracting the virus, as many have underlying health conditions and would find it difficult to follow Government advice around self-isolating at home.

"The Government’s ‘Everyone In’ operation will be a lifeline for many, but during these turbulent times, it’s more important than ever that homeless people and their dogs remain together. Dogs can often provide much needed companionship, comfort and normality throughout what is such a lonely, uncomforting, and abnormal situation. We are be supporting hotels and homelessness organisations, and housing providers to help make sure this happens.

"Dogs Trust has been in contact with the 346 homelessness organisations that we work closely with, through our Hope Project, to ensure that we are supporting homeless dog owners and helping to keep people and their pets together."

Dogs Trust is now launching new, additional support to homelessness organisations, hotels and other emergency shelters by:

  • Providing tailored advice to hotels and other housing providers around accepting and managing dogs in the form of telephone or video consultations during the current movement restrictions.
  • Supplying emergency dog food and essential items like leads, collars and bedding, which can be delivered directly to the hotel or accommodation providers.
  • Providing free emergency vet care for any dogs should they become unwell, as well as support with transportation to the vet practice.
  • Offering temporary boarding*, via private boarding kennels, for dogs belonging to homeless people if they need to access hospital treatment during this time

For 25 years, Dogs Trust Hope Project has been supporting homeless dog owners by offering free veterinary treatment to dogs whose owners are homeless or in housing crisis as well as working with hostels and housing providers to encourage them to accept dogs through its Welcoming Dogs scheme. The people the Hope Project supports can still get out-of-hours help for emergency cases through the veterinary entitlement card scheme.

Petra Salva, St Mungo’s Director for Rough Sleeping Services, said:

"We’ve worked with the Dogs Trust for a number of years to provide support to people with dogs in our hostels. That’s still happening but during the coronavirus we’re pleased and grateful to be working as well to support people with dogs from rough sleeping and communal shelters into hotels and other accommodation so they can safely isolate.

"Thanks to the Dogs Trust Hope Project and accommodation providers for recognising how important it is for those we work with to know their dogs have access to food, vet care and safety inside during this public health emergency."

If you see someone sleeping rough, contact the national referral service StreetLink via www.streetlink.org.uk. There is also a large amount of resources and information around accepting and managing dogs in accommodation available on the Hope Project website through our Welcoming Dogs initiative: www.dogstrusthopeproject.org.uk.

If the public do want to help, then please visit https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/donation/ to support our work on the Hope Project by making a donation.

Dogs Trust are also now releasing new guidance for homeless dog owners, available here.