Best friends, through thick and thin

London, ON, Canada / 106.9 The X

dog-1487553_960_720It’s not a rare sight, to see a homeless person with a pet.

Whether they fell upon hard times together, or they acquired their pet after the fact, there aren’t always practical resources available to them.

A lot of these people are also subjected to scrutiny, as many assume that they couldn’t possibly take care of a pet in their situation. But more often than not, this simply isn’t the case.

Necole Douglas-Elis is a peer support worker at the London Intercommunity Health Centre, and over came this very situation with her 4 legged best friend. She says “the pets are usually well taken care of because that’s the only thing a person has. So they will take care of their pet before they take care of themselves.

“I was one of those people,” she adds. “The emotional benefits of a pet… and the ability that pet has to get a person to still have drive, is incredible. It’s another being that you have to take care of, and for a lot of people, that is their drive.”

While many cities have homeless shelters that allow pets, London does not. The Animal Care and Control center will sometimes take in pets, but it’s temporary, and for dire situations only.

Shelter isn’t the only issue though. Food is often something that is provided to the pet before it’s owner. But what happens when even that is hard to come by? Douglas-Elis says, “the Ark [Aid Street Mission] will sometimes have food for pets. The London Food Bank occasionally has food. [But] these are not constant stables.”

She says, if those who are little more fortunate can afford to do so, donating pet food to the Food Bank and the Humane Society is always helpful. Even something as simple as putting a bowl of water out front of your property on a hot day, can make a difference.

If your pet passes away, she says supplies can also be donated to the Humane Society, Life Spin and even the Intercommunity Health Centre.

For those who overcoming hard times, and transitioning out of homelessness, the difficulties don’t often improve.

Douglas-Elis says, “when you’re on the streets looking for apartments, you have no choice but to take your pet with you. The landlord sees you already looking scruffy, then sees you with this animal… the worst things go through their head.”

She adds that pets of homeless people are often very well behaved because they’ve also had to overcome the hard times. They’re loyal, and usually used to being subjected to crowds of people.

But finding a place willing to accept you and your pet, isn’t where it ends. “Even with London Housing,” she adds, “you have to have your animals tagged, licensed and their shots before you even move in. Which I understand, but the pricing for these things are outrageous for those on government assistance.”

Places like the East Village Animal Hospital offer discounted prices for low income families or individuals, but even something as simple as getting your dog licensed, can cost upwards of $50 per dog. These funds could be the difference in having to choose food for you or food for your pet, for the week.

She encourages everyone who is able to continue to donate, and hopes the city will come up with better solutions to some of these problems.

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