Homeless dogs: Choosing between a pet’s health and your own
Lost in the ongoing discussion of Seattle’s homeless population is that many have pets struggling alongside them. The rise in homeless people means an increase in homeless dogs as well.
What compounds the issue is that keeping those dogs may be keeping both the pet and its owner on the streets. KIRO 7 anchor Dave Wagner joined Ron and Don to discuss a recent story covering what happens to homeless people with dogs.
“Most shelters do not take pets,” Wagner told the Ron and Don Show. “And it’s tough for these folks to come up with a pet deposit for an apartment. Many of them often put off getting medical help for themselves because of their animals.”
One man living under the Spokane Street Viaduct owns seven homeless dogs, and has forgone much needed cancer treatment for years by caring for the dogs, according to Wagner.
“He loves the dogs and views them as his family,” Wagner said.
“That is not fair to those dogs, in my opinion,” said KIRO Radio’s Ron Upshaw. “Is there anybody standing up for the dogs, and maybe trying to get them into a more stable environment?”
What may be surprising to learn is that many of these dogs are in better shape than expected. Several of the veterinarians KIRO 7 spoke with found them in decent health, and fairly well-socialized considering their chaotic street life.
“They seem to be better treated than the people treat themselves,” Wagner said.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Development, Seattle has over 11,000 homeless people, with more than 5,400 of those unsheltered and on the streets. While most shelters don’t take pets, there are a few services aiding those with them, including the the Doney Memorial Pet Clinic at Union Gospel Mission. They offer free veterinary care for homeless pets.
The Seattle Humane Society is also seeing a dramatic rise in the number of pets showing up, as people entering into homelessness can no longer afford to keep them.
“One of the dilemmas people on the streets face is they don’t have any place to put their dog,” Wagner said. “They’ve been given a choice: Do I give up my pet or do I go find a home?”
What homeless dogs can offer
For those living on the streets, the dogs tend to offer companionship in a lonely situation, and hope for survival where there was previously hopelessness.
“Some of these people are former soldiers and have PTSD,” said KIRO Radio’s Don O’Neil. “They have a disconnection with family and friends. Maybe they’ve gone through a divorce, lost their job, and find themselves on the streets.”
“Sometimes that connection with an animal can be the only connection you have.”