Scotland

Homeless people 'should be allowed to stay with their dogs'

Puppies Image copyright Simon Community Scotland
Image caption Only about 10% of hostels for the homeless are dog friendly

Homeless people need to be able to stay with their dogs, according to guidance being issued for housing providers.

Homelessness charity Simon Community Scotland is working with Dogs Trust to help direct the response to homeless people and their pets.

Their Paws for Thought guidance highlights the positive role dogs can play in people's lives.

It aims to raise awareness of the value of the pets among housing and support service providers.

The document consists of several pieces of advice such as how to provide dog-friendly communal rooms in temporary shelters and create risk assessments to ensure there are no issues with staff members being allergic to, or afraid of, pets.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The guidance highlights the positive role dogs can play in people's lives

Lorraine McGrath, from Simon Community Scotland, said: "No-one should ever be placed in a position where they have to choose between a safe place to stay or their pet.

"What makes this choice even harder is the trauma and loss many of the people we support have experienced.

"Being asked to give up the only constant in their lives that gives them company, purpose, security and love simply adds more trauma and loss to an already awful journey.

"The great thing is it doesn't have to be like that, being dog and pet friendly isn't that hard. This document shares the experiences and opportunities to provide that approach."

'Source of comfort'

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart, who is launching the document in Edinburgh, welcomed the "positive" recommendations in the report.

"It clearly sets out why pets matter and provides practical steps to support social landlords in helping people experiencing homelessness to maintain their relationships with their pets," he said.

Respecting people's relationships with their pets was an important element of the "person-centred approach" in the government's Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan, Mr Stewart added.

"For someone facing homelessness, it is already an extremely difficult time," he said. "Being forced to choose between their pets and a safe place to live is a choice no-one should have to make.

Clare Kivlehan, from Dogs Trust, said only about 10% of hostels were dog-friendly.

"When we say a dog is for life, we mean it," she said. "Every effort should be made to keep homeless people and their pets together as they are often their only source of comfort and support."

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