Many homeless youth have pets, everything from rats and cats to dogs and it’s not surprising. Being homeless is often a lonely life and all people need companionship and something to love. Pets do not judge you if you smell or are dirty they love you unconditionally. In turn homeless youth love them unconditionally and will often give up their food, blankets and shelter to take care of their pets.
Not everyone agrees that homeless people should have pets, feeling that if that can’t house or take care of themselves they are not capable of taking care of animals. In some cases this can be true just as not everyone who has a house and owns a pet does a good job of taking care of them. Many of our youth adopt stray pets that no one else wants and would be otherwise but left to fend for themselves and some of our youth take street rats and mice and domesticate them for pets.
Recently our CSS team was lucky to have a meeting with BC SPCA animal welfare supervisor Kim Monteith. She works with low income and homeless folks to teach them how to properly care for animals, where they can get support and supplies, and the laws around animal welfare. She even helps find housing that accepts animals as many times people won’t come inside if they have to leave their beloved pet.
At Covenant House we are not able to allow pets to stay at our Shelter for health and safety reasons but youth are able to access our Drop-In if they have pets. We have a cage and carriers for small creatures and a pet room for larger animals. Covenant House believes in reporting any mistreatment of any animals to the SPCA. If we feel a youth is struggling to care for their animal will discuss with them the option of taking the animal to a shelter and help them to do so if necessary. We are now lucky to have Kim Monteith to go to for support when our youth are struggling with their pets or just need some basic care training.