As the UK headed towards lockdown, it became quickly clear that the public was facing an unprecedented crisis; the situation looked especially dire for the homeless, who were unable to isolate at home, and their dogs, who are often their only companions.
From the start Michelle Southern, founder Street Paws – a charity that provides support and emergency kennel space – was extremely concerned for the safety and welfare of the people and dogs they look after.
“Rought sleepers and their dogs already face so many problems, and now the country looks like it might be heading to a lockdown,” she told Dogs Today as citizens were advised to to self-isolate.
“Who is going to support them? How can they possibly isolate with nowhere to go? If places are found for them to stay during the crisis, will their dogs allowed to go with them? What will happen to the dog of a homeless person who becomes sick?
“The homeless are vulnerable to illnesses, and it is a scene we have seen more than once – a sick person sitting in an ambulance, almost to the point of collapse but refusing to go to the hospital because no one would be there to look after their dog,” she added.
After the country went into lockdown, Street Paws was forced to make changes to its way of operating – but they are still able to provide homeless hounds with much-needed medical care and food, as well as emergency kennel accommodation when needed.
Despite current lockdown restrictions our work continues and we are able to support owners and their dogs needing…
However, there is still much to do – and their funds, like those of many charities, are running low.
“As lockdown eases we are seeing more people sadly returned to the streets,” a Street Paws statement reads. “We are also experiencing increasing calls for new referrals. We are for the first time in four years worried we won’t have the funds to continue to support with unexpected costly veterinary procedures.
“This month alone has seen an outlay of thousands of pounds for the five-star care our Paws deserve.”
While Street Paws operates in the North East, North West, Yorkshire, Wales and Ireland another charity, Dogs on the Streets (DOTS), operates across London, Oxford, Kent, Milton Keynes, and Bournemouth to provide veterinary care to the pets of the homeless community. They too had to make some changes due to the pandemic, but are working to ensure homeless dogs can still access to veterinary care as well as a safe place to stay if needed, either in their sanctuary or through fostering.
Design brand Marokka, which supports the charity, says, “The DOTS 3 acre 64-kennel sanctuary is being used to support the rough sleepers’ dogs who have obtained emergency COVID-19 accommodation but cannot take their pets with them. This facility is open to UK wide rough sleepers.
“DOTS is additionally supporting the London Ambulance Service by providing a fostering service within its sanctuary for pet owners that are hospitalised. The charity is also offering sanctuary places to the pets of NHS workers who need support in this difficult time.
“DOTS continues to visit their rough sleeper clients, and those without pets too, who need basic humanitarian help such as food and water for themselves.”
Dogs on the Streets founder Michelle Clark adds, “The powerful bond between these owners and the dogs is inextricable- one is nothing without the other. Their dog is their lifeline and loyal companion. It is my belief that every creature, human or canine, deserves a roof over their heads in a humane society.”