As many Big Issue vendors know, a canine companion can be the most important thing in the world. Many homeless people claim the experience of looking after a loyal dog has helped them through the very worst of times.
And now a group of London volunteers have launched the city’s first-ever “doggy station” service for pets living with homeless people on the streets of the UK capital.
The Dogs on the Streets (DOTS) project will offer rough sleepers the chance to give their beloved pets free veterinary check-ups, food, training advice and grooming one day a week.
Located on The Strand every Sunday from 2pm to 4pm, volunteer vets and dog behaviour specialists will be on hand to make sure homeless dog is getting everything they need.
“To a homeless dog owner, their dog is their world,” said DOTS project leader Michelle Clark. “They will quite often put the needs of the dog before their own, they love and care for them that much. So my ultimate goal is to have regular stations in all major UK cities, run by professional volunteers, to give them a helping hand.”
To a homeless dog owner, their dog is their world
James Bowen’s cat Bob, star of the book and movie A Street Cat Named Bob, is of course the world’s most famous homeless pet. Other Big Issue vendors and former vendors have told us about the joys and struggles of caring for a pet without a roof over their heads.
Michelle said the new service will provide essential veterinary care from ear cleaning and worming to microchipping, supplementing the love, attention and basic care homeless people can give.
“Quite often homeless people are forced to feed their dogs human food, whatever they can get their hands on, which can be harmful to the dogs,” Michelle explained. “Our service should help limit this with the weekly provision of dog food. Services like dog training are essential too, as street dogs often don’t have socialisation skills.”
The DOTS team is also offering an ID tagging service, logging the details of each dog in case anything bad happens. “Our collar tags protect the dogs if they get lost, or if the owner gets ill, or even if they move on and the dog attends a new vet,” Michelle explained.
Dogs on the Streets relies on public donations and voluntary help from the UK public, and Michelle said she is always keen to hear from dog specialists willing to help.
Photos: Michelle Clark / E5 Dog Photography