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Dogs Trust brings festive cheer to dog owners who are homeless

Dogs Trust is once more bringing some festive cheer to dogs and their owners who are experiencing homelessness or living in housing crisis this Christmas.

The UK’s largest dog welfare charity, which has two rehoming centres in Scotland, has been running its unique Hope Project across the UK for over 25 years.

Throughout the year the Hope Project supports people who are homeless and have a four-legged friend, and every Christmas it delivers canine hampers filled with treats, toys, collars, leads and warm winter dog coats. This year more than 100 dogs across Scotland are set to benefit from the Christmas parcel service including 15 in Glasgow and 66 in Edinburgh, two of which are Staffordshire Bull Terrier Blazer and Teddy, a Spanish Water Dog.

Jock, who became homeless after leaving the military, now lives at the Scottish Veterans Residence (SVR) in Edinburgh with Teddy, who he adopted after he was found abandoned. But four years ago, life was very different.

He says:

"I was living in Shetland at the time. I was really struggling l and was considering ending my life. That’s when I saw a picture of Teddy and applied to rehome him. We haven’t been apart since and he is now licensed as an emotional support dog so he can help me everywhere I go."

"I wouldn’t be here without Teddy, so everything I do is for him. Teddy is registered on the Hope Project for veterinary treatment so I can always make sure he gets the care he needs. He grounds me and has stabilised and helped me more than any medication or psychiatrist has ever been able to. To help my mental health I have recently started learning the saxophone. Teddy sings along and can hold a tune!"

Franco, a former head chef, became homeless after he was diagnosed with mental health problems and could no longer work. He is now living in a dog-friendly hostel after Streetwork Holyrood Hub, part of the Simon Community, and the Hope Project were able to support him and Blazer, who he has owned since birth.

Franco says:

"Recently I was in temporary accommodation in a hotel and was separated from Blazer as they wouldn’t accept dogs. When I am separated from him I feel depressed. He is my medication. Blazer is my family and it means the world to me that we are back together. He is everything to me. Blazer saved me."

This year the Hope Project has adapted its services in light of the pandemic to include supporting hotels and emergency accommodation providers who were accommodating people sleeping rough as part of the national effort to bring people in off the streets, to accept their four-legged friends too. Plus, it has sent out more than 1,200 tins of emergency dog food for more than 50 dogs to support people and their pets during this pandemic. 

Cat Birt, Pets and Housing Development and Engagement Officer for the Hope Project, says:

"Just like Jock and Franco have said, for anyone who is experiencing homelessness or is in housing crisis, their dog is an incredible source of companionship, support and love. We’re delighted to be able to provide free veterinary care and other support to  anyone who is homeless or in housing crisis, as well as running our Welcoming Dogs scheme, supporting housing providers and homelessness services to become dog friendly, ensuring that no dog owner has to choose between staying with their dog or accessing accommodation.

"We’re so pleased to be able to deliver so many Christmas hampers this year. Not only will they deliver some festive cheer, but these doggy essentials will help dogs keep warm and safe during the winter"

With support from the Hope Project, Simon Community Scotland and Scottish Veterans Residence (SVR) now accept dogs at all of their locations.

Hugh Hill, Director of Services at Simon Community Scotland, says:

"Welcoming dogs in was an easy decision for our charity and we couldn’t recommend it enough. Small changes to the way we work has made the world of difference to dog owners experiencing homelessness."

And Susie Hamilton, Head of External Relations for SVR, says:

"The bond between a Veteran and their dog can literally be a lifeline and we think it is counterproductive to ask a homeless Veteran to give up their best friend at a time when they need them most. Dogs bring proven wellbeing benefits as well as simple joy to the lives of our Veterans and we are proud to welcome dogs at SVR."

To find out more about the Hope Project and the Pets and Housing project in Scotland, go to www.dogstrusthopeproject.org.uk