A UK-wide charity that helps keep Big Issue vendors’ animal companions healthy on the streets are up for a prestigious award that could let them transform homeless hostels to make them more pet friendly.
Big Issue Changemakers StreetVet have been shortlisted for Purina’s BetterwithPets Prize after their proposed Accredited Hostel Scheme saw off 150 applicants from across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa to be in the final running for the prize.
Co-founded by vets Jade Statt and Sam Joseph in 2016, StreetVet have been making a difference by bringing animal healthcare to rough sleepers on the street, making often vital-yet-costly treatment affordable and less intimidating for people who may have no other contact with services.
The Accredited Hostel Scheme will see them work with hostel managers and staff to adopt and implement positive pet policies. It is hoped that the work will allow more hostels to accepted rough sleepers and their pets, removing a barrier from getting off the streets in the process.
StreetVet will find out if they won the award on June 3 following an online pitch from all finalists to decide the winner.
According to Jade Statt, co-founder of StreetVet: “Discovering a competition that celebrates the importance of the human animal bond felt like fate, one the StreetVet team felt compelled to enter. We are so delighted that we did! Going through this process has been really enlightening and we are beyond pleased that our project has reached the final, it is a real privilege.”
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
The award, run by pet care company Purina in collaboration with social innovation firm Ashoka, highlights entrepreneurs whose work focuses on the power of the pet human bond and whose efforts are helping to transform society.
Other projects in the running include Spain’s Courthouse Dogs Research – academic study in using dogs to humanise the court system – and France’s Evi’dence, which aims to bring animal mediation into prisons to help reintegration with society.
Another French competitor, Gamelles Pleines, works similarly to StreetVet by offering help to homeless people so they can feed and care for their pets. UAE’s Reading Dogs rounds out the contenders with plans to use dogs to help children learn to read and practice language skills in a non-judgemental atmosphere.
Mary Sharrock, external relations director, Purina, said: “The work StreetVet do is simply amazing and I’m delighted they’ve made the shortlist. Throughout the selection process for the BetterwithPets Prize, we found ourselves inspired by so many of the initiatives which harnessed the pet-human bond in such innovative ways and create positive changes in communities.”
Away from the award, Statt told The Big Issue that StreetVet had kennelled a very small number of dogs for rough sleepers housed in hotels and they have been delivering food and carrying out video consultancies too.
She added: “The situation with Covid-19 has almost made people realise that in exceptional circumstances they can accept dogs and it’s not as much as an undertaking as they thought. It has also made people see the important of dogs with some people unwilling to take a room even during a pandemic because they will not give up their dog. I think that has highlighted the bond that is shared.”
At The Big Issue we know just how much the bond between our vendors and their pets means to them. That is why the story of Bath vendor Chris and his dog Mack were featured on the cover of the magazine in April while Shane shared his story of how his dogs Mr Fang and Loopy Lou saved him while he went from rough sleeping to permanent housing. The Big Issue is helping vendors to feed their pets during the Covid-19 crisis too.