It's World Strays Animals Day on April the 4th raising awareness of the many cats and dogs that do not have a home, struggling by living on the street. One charity we particularly admire is Street Vets who help the homeless and their dogs. Keep on reading to understand the wonderful work they do and why we've chosen them as one of four key charities we support.
StreetVet started with a simple premise: two back packs, two stethoscopes, some basic medical supplies and two vets who saw that they were needed beyond the surgery door. Driven by the extraordinary bond she had witnessed between one homeless man and his dog, co-founder Jade Statt hit the streets of London seeking out rough sleepers with dogs and hoping to make a small difference. Jade was completely unaware that another vet, Sam Joseph, was doing exactly the same just a few miles away. Soon enough they joined forces and the ripple effect through the veterinary world was immense. Hundreds of vets and veterinary nurses across the UK now volunteer to assist Jade and Sam in their vision to provide free veterinary care to people who are homeless.
Just two years after it all began in London, StreetVet has spread to eleven other cities across the UK: Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Gloucester & Cheltenham, Cornwall, Glasgow, Lincoln, Peterborough, Plymouth, and Southampton. Teaming up with the cities’ soup kitchens they hold regular open-air drop in clinics for the local homeless pets. StreetVet are a registered charity and are also proud to be an accredited veterinary practice recognized by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. They depend entirely on donations from the veterinary and pet industries and the good will of the general public through fundraising and purchases on their Amazon Wish Lists. Besides the routine microchipping, worming, flea treatments and vaccines, they have treated allergies, skin rashes, arthritis, gastroenteritis, fractures, tumours and ear disease – all the things you would come across in any other practice. During their outreach sessions they clip claws, take blood samples and clean wounds all out on the street. StreetVet recognise that the problem goes way beyond just giving a wormer and fixing a broken leg. They also do whatever they can to assist owners to access shelters, hostel facilities and their own medical treatment. But mainly they try to just be there to listen and to give advice and reassurance.
Studies have shown that pets provide great benefits to their owners through companionship, affection, security and warmth. They also provide purpose, routine, responsibility, self identity and a connection with others which can be extremely important to StreetVet clients. Homelessness is borne through a multitude of complex issues which in some cases can lead to depression and addiction, but pet ownership can improve mental health and feelings of wellbeing, whilst decreasing drug dependency and suicidal thoughts. Incredibly many of StreetVet’s patients also act as assistance dogs for owners with disabilities, anxiety, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder. The dogs often provide a link to a happier time or an important person who is no longer around. Life on the streets is tough but the dogs are active, stimulated, cared for and loved unconditionally.
Unsurprisingly owning a dog on the streets brings about many challenges. Dog owners face difficulties accessing facilities such as housing and hostels, doctor surgeries, hospitals, community centres and shops for basic essentials. They become extremely concerned about who will look after their pet when they enter hospital or rehabilitation care and will often prioritise their dog’s needs over their own. It can be a real struggle for homeless dog owners to undertake day to day activities when mobility is limited to what their dog is able to do; particularly when their dog is injured or elderly and arthritic. In addition, the owners often face hostility and stigma from people who believe that they should not have a pet which can exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness. StreetVet volunteers often have to take all these factors into account when creating treatment plans; resourcefulness and lateral thinking is a necessity! They also recognise the importance of supporting their clients through all aspects of their pet’s veterinary treatment as many owners describe feelings of extreme anxiety when their dog is ill and overwhelming loss when they experience pet bereavement.
Help us spread the word
StreetVet are extremely grateful for all the support they receive, which is essential in order for them continue the important work that they do. For more information on StreetVet and what they do, Please take a look at their website: www.streetvet.co.uk or find them on facebook, twitter or instagram. And tell, tweet, share this wonderful cause to help those who need us most.