In a bid to end this no-win situation, the NCDL, the UK's largest dog welfare charity, is today launching a campaign to persuade housing providers to reconsider their policies on dogs, with an information pack entitled 'Welcoming Dogs'. The pack contains guidelines for accepting dogs as well as model dog policies and case studies.
'Sadly, many homeless dog owners are forced to decide between accommodation - and the first step towards a safe life in settled housing - and their beloved pets. The reality is that many homeless dog owners then choose the love and companionship of their pet over essential shelter and support.
'Over 22% of housing providers refusing to allow dogs do so simply because of 'hostel policy'. Yet, in many cases there is little reason for them to refuse. Our new 'Welcoming Dogs' Information pack provides guidelines and essential policies to help hostels, day centres and shelters make an informed decision about whether or not to accept dogs.'
Only 2% of those housing providers interviewed cited dogs being a nuisance as the main reason for denying access to homeless people with dogs, only one hostel referred to past problems.
St Mungo's is London's leading service provider for the homeless and has accepted pets into its hostels for the last ten years. John Barker, deputy manager of one of St Mungo's central London hostels explains:
'St Mungo's accepts pets because if we didn't their owners wouldn't come in. Personally, I find that allowing dogs and other pets into the hostel I work in helps staff to enhance relationships with residents. Pets make the place much more like
The NCDL has found that dogs provide real comfort to their homeless owners, helping them to cope with a tough lifestyle by boosting self esteem, providing emotional stability and giving them a purpose. As a result, homeless dog owners are less susceptible to depression or drug abuse than those who do not have a pet. The dogs themselves usually enjoy lots of regular exercise and the company of many other animals and people. Consequently, most homeless dogs are healthy, happy and loving.
The 'Welcoming Dogs' Information Pack has been produced as part of the NCDL's Hope Project. For the last ten years, the Hope Project has been helping dogs whose owners are homeless or in housing crisis by providing preventative veterinary healthcare, giving advice and help to their owners as well as encouraging housing providers to accept homeless people who own dogs. The Hope healthcare programme includes free health checks, neutering and vaccinations at monthly clinics in London and through a voucher scheme operating across the UK.
The National Canine Defence League housing providers survey was conducted in October 2001. Questionnaires were sent to 364 hostels in the London area, with a response rate of 50%.
The Hope Project Voucher Scheme currently operates in Birmingham, Brighton, Bournemouth, Cambridge, Canterbury, Exeter, Newcastle, Newport, Nottingham, Oxford and Truro. Anyone interested in finding out more about the vouchers scheme in their area should contact the NCDL on 020 7837 0006.