The Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) often receives calls about animals living with homeless people. Some callers are concerned about the welfare of the animal while others are looking for ways to support these pets and their human companions. SAS responds to each of those calls based on priority level of the individual call and the shelter’s ability to respond with available resources.
Anytime there is a situation of instability or a lack of resources, there is an understandable concern for any animals involved. However, the situation itself doesn’t automatically translate to abuse and/or neglect. Just as in any part of a community, it is individual situations and actions that contribute to harm of an animal. This is true whether the animal lives in a house or a tent. Often, homeless individuals meet their pets’ needs before their own, and the animals are provided with a level of companionship that some pets living in homes do not see. Likewise, the pets provide their humans comfort as they live in an uncomfortable situation.
Many animals that shelter staff encounter appear to be healthy, friendly, social and well cared for, with strong bonds between the animals and their people. If SAS does have concerns for welfare, depending on the severity and circumstances of the situation, they attempt to provide resources to include spay/neuter certificates and supplies (collars, leashes, crates, food, etc.) and information for low- or no-cost veterinary services. If SAS encounters situations of animal cruelty or abuse, it has the authority to and will enforce the Seattle Municipal Code and RCW related to animal cruelty.
How to help
There are several resources that help to meet the needs of homeless individual’s pets. One is the Doney Memorial Pet Clinic, a free vet clinic and pet food bank for low-income people. You can learn more about the clinic and donate or volunteer at http://www.doneyclinic.org/.
Another organization doing great work is Furry Faces, a small group that focuses on keeping people with their pets by paying for vet bills or supplies and working with pet owners to find creative solutions to help them keep their pet. Find out more, donate or volunteer at http://www.furryfacesfoundation.org/. Through the generosity of donations, the Seattle Animal Shelter provides spay and neuter certificates to both organizations for distribution to the community.