What Helps the Homeless Who Have Pets? Study Has Answers

What Helps the Homeless Who Have Pets? Study Has Answers
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Key Takeaways

  • Helping homeless people and their pets stay healthy is a challenge

  • Getting to and from appointments and a lack of safe place to leave pets are barriers for people who are homeless

  • Clinics that treat both people and pets could be an answer

MONDAY, Feb. 19, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- One in 10 homeless people has a pet, and one-stop health clinics where both can get health care would benefit both, a new study suggests.

The study, published Feb. 19 in the journal Human-Animal Interactions, found that joint people-pet clinics, free veterinary clinics and pet-friendly lodging are common ways homeless people and their four-legged companions can get help. 

The findings amplify an earlier study that focused on 44 homeless pet owners in Seattle. It found that 61% were interested in healthcare for their pets, compared to 43% for themselves. 

But nearly 9 in 10 indicated they would attend a joint veterinary/human health clinic. 

"Research has shown that companion animals are a source of friendship and physical safety, and homeless persons with pets report significantly lower rates of depression and loneliness compared to non-pet owners," said lead study author Dr. Michelle Kurkowski, chief veterinary medical officer at the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Convenience is a must, however. 

"Our review reveals that this group is less likely to utilize needing assistance, such as healthcare or career services, potentially due to difficulty using public transportation or lack of safe places to leave pets," she added. She conducted the research while at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health (UTHealth).

The study aimed to better understand the needs and challenges facing homeless people and their pets, to promote helpful interventions.

"The ultimate goal of this assessment was to summarize key intervention strategies for pet owners experiencing homelessness and to help direct future funding, research and outreach efforts among this unique population," said study co-author Andrew Springer, an associate professor of health promotion and behavioral science at UTHealth.

More information

The State of Pet Homeless Project has more on the homeless and pets.

SOURCE: CABI, news release, Feb. 19, 2024

What This Means For You

Health care for homeless pet owners could be provided at clinics for both.

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