The homeless population here in Seattle is fairly large, and 9 times out of 10 they seem to be pet owners as well. At first I would look at these people almost in disbeleif that they had these poor animals out in the cold. I felt bad for these animals because they didn’t have a warm home to go to at the end of the day. Usually I'd walk away hoping that their owners had enough spare change to make sure they were getting properly fed, and still getting the nourishments that their bodies required. I always thought to myself "How in the hell can you take care of an animal when you can't even take if yourself?"
I had a really bad taste for homeless people that I saw with dogs, but after an encounter with a homeless girl, I had a chance to learn more about being homeless and owning an animal, and as a result, my opinion definitely changed.
I encountered the girl in front of a gas station, and eventually got to asking how long had been homeless, and she told me it'd been about four months. I asked her why she didn't give her dog to someone that had more of a stable home, and as her eyes drifted out of my sight she said "Shaka is the only source of support and stability that I have in my life, and I would probably lose it out here in the streets if it wasn't for her."
Shaka provides her with warmth, a sense of security, and the emotional connection that keeps her going day after day. Shaka's owner stated that she could have gone to a shelter, but there are no shelters in town that take in people with animals so she chooses to stay on the streets and take care of her dog the best way she knows how. Shaka seemed like a very upbeat and loving dog. She had her food, her water, a couple of toys, and her owner who seemed to love her more than herself.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, up to 10% (in some areas, as many as 24 percent) of the homeless population are pet owners. Many of these pet owners get harassed by pet control and then are in fear when they do need to take their animals in to see the vet, because they won't be able to provide an address which means that the clinic will not return their animals to them. When the animals are taken away, they mostly end up in shelters where they will either be euthanized, which I think is horrible, or placed into another home, which then becomes one less available home for the other 6-8 million animals waiting to be adopted.
Shelters across America should open their doors to people and their pets. I feel that animals should not be considered homeless because they don't have a fixed residence, but only when they don't have a steady person taking care of them. Animals that are being well taken care by their homeless owners should be allowed to stay with them. I see it on TV all the time how people (who are not homeless) mistreat their animals and leave them malnourished and un-kept. What is your take on homeless people you see on the streets that have animals?