What Happens to Pets of the Homeless?

by Ragtimelil

Have you ever stopped to think about what happens to a pet when a person becomes homeless? It’s a tough situation but there are people trying to help.

Once I came home to a burnt out house. I suddenly had no place to live. Another time, the bank reclaimed my house and evicted me. I had no place to live. Both times I managed to find a place for me and my dogs to stay. My dogs were my reason to live another day. I was not about to give them up.
I can understand a homeless person wanting to keep their pets. When I discovered the website, "Pets of the Homeless," I was just amazed and somewhat weepy that someone not only understood, but made it their mission to help.

Who Are the Homeless

About 3.5 million Americans are homeless each year according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. On a given night 633,782 people are experiencing homelessness, There are about 500,000 shelters across the country. As in the rest of the population, homeless people are an assorted mix.  For example, 239,403 are people in families, and 392,945 are individuals. Slightly fewer than 16 percent are considered chronically homeless.  About 62,619 or 10 percent of the homeless population are veterans.

 Pets of the HomelessThere are professionals and workers who lost their jobs, the mentally ill, the elderly, teens and spouses escaping from an abusive family life. The main reason they are homeless is because they cannot find housing they can afford.


Photo by Dan Lee


 To complicate things, 5% to 10% of homeless people have dogs and/or cats. In some areas of the country the rate is as high as 24% according to Pets of the Homeless.



Emergency Laws but Not For Homeless

After Hurricane Katrina the federal government passed a law that emergency shelters and transportation had to accept pets since many people refused to evacuate if it meant leaving pets behind. There is no such accommodation for the homeless. Almost all of the 500,000 shelters do not accept pets. Many of the homeless will not leave their pets behind to stay in a shelter or to take advantage of other services.

Putting pets in already overcrowded animal shelters where they stand a good chance of being euthanized is not a particularly good solution. Many times the pet is the only living thing that gives that person love with no judgment or conditions. For some, caring for the animal provides some touch with normalcy and reality. The dogs also provide some measure of protection. Living on the street is not a safe life.


Pets of the Homeless

Pets of the Homeless is just one organization that is making a difference. Not only do they distribute food for pets at over 200 collection sites in the US, but they raise money in order to give grants to veterinarians so that they can give free care to this population of animals.

They also are educating homeless shelters with their Sleeping Crate Project and providing collapsible crates, feeding bowls and cleaning supplies so that homeless pet owners can spend the night in the shelter with their pet. This can be the first step to moving a person out of homelessness.

They have collected well over 176 tons of pet food for the homeless and sponsored numerous wellness clinics for pets that include exams, vaccinations and signing up for spay and neuter services.

Pets of the Homeless Clinic
Pets of the Homeless Clinic
by founder of Pets of the Homeless

The Web Site

The Pets of the Homeless web site is very comprehensive. They explain what they do and why. They keep a list of places around the country that give out free food and free medical attention. Like any charitable organization, they ask for help, but help can be in any form. Even a donation of a dollar is welcome. They have a page listing things anyone can do from just talking to people and businesses to educate them about how they can help, to donations. One task they mention is simply rebagging pet food into smaller portions. Most homeless cannot carry a 50 pound bag of dog food on their backs.

More Things You Can Do

  • Visit the site Pets of the Homeless  web site and tell others about it. Watch their video on their web site.
  • Volunteer at a local food bank or pantry. This can open the door for them to start offering pet food donated by Pets of the Homeless.
  • Ask local veterinarians, pet stores, groomers and other retail stores if they have heard of Pets of the Homeless and would be willing to become a Collection Site.
  • Tell veterinarians and homeless shelters about the Grant Program.
  • Go to their Facebook page and vote in the photo contest. It only costs $1.
  • Read more about things you can do To Help.
By Daragh
Updated: 01/15/2013, Ragtimelil
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Ragtimelil on 07/17/2013

Matter of fact, some pets of the homeless are cats. They are included in free food and vet services.

andrea meyers on 07/17/2013

how about cats?? i hear nothing?
they love and need love too.. they are so often left out :(

Ragtimelil on 04/28/2013

There's also the issue that truly homeless can't store a lot of food so getting a steady supply is critical. And blessings on you for helping.

jan111 on 04/26/2013

Many thanks for this article. I have to admit that, whilst I sometimes do buy food for homeless people I see, I had never thought about their pets.

Ragtimelil on 03/28/2013

That is great. I just got the newsletter from Pets of the Homeless. They do so much for helping with vet services too. Most of these pets are so important to those folks. Anything we can do helps.

BrendaReeves on 03/28/2013

Lana, After reading this article, I'm going to keep old blankets and dog food in my car. When I see homeless people with pets, I'm going to give them a blanket and food for their dog. I feed my dogs Science Diet and one of them gets prescription food. I get coupons for grocery store dog food all the time so I'll buy it for homeless dogs.

I wish I could save them all.

Ragtimelil on 01/20/2013

Thank you for reading it. I was really moved by their stories.

JoHarrington on 01/20/2013

What beautiful people! Thank you for sharing their story and work.

Ragtimelil on 01/16/2013

Thank you. It was hard to write since I kept crying.

sheilamarie on 01/16/2013

What an inspiring article, Lana. Homelessness can hit us all. Life can be fragile.

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