RSPCA Cymru has welcomed the presentation of a report from a Member of the Senedd to the Welsh Government focussed on the importance of supporting homeless people with dogs to access safe accommodation.
Jack Sargeant, MS for Alyn and Deeside, has submitted the ‘Pet Friendly Paw-licy’ to the Welsh Government, following discussions with a host of animal welfare organisations and housing groups – including the RSPCA.
The new report highlights that pet ownership must not be a barrier to accessing accommodation and services – and urges greater understanding across the sector of the importance of helping keep people with their pets as they enter a housing journey away from homelessness.
RSPCA Cymru believes the Welsh Government should work with local authorities and providers of accommodation for homeless people to ensure the fear of losing pets is not providing a barrier to vulnerable individuals accessing services.
Under the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, all local authorities are required to produce a homelessness strategy. However, research from the RSPCA suggests no homeless strategy currently published by a local authority in Wales makes references to pets or animal welfare.
Lewis Clark, RSPCA public affairs adviser, said: “The RSPCA is pleased to have worked closely with Jack Sargeant MS and organisations in the animal welfare and housing sectors on this important report. We have long highlighted that for many the lack of access for pets – particularly dogs – to homeless shelters, hostels and social housing can be a barrier to improving their own situation and standards of living, and places their pet at risk too.
“We urge the Welsh Government to work with local authorities and providers of accommodation for homeless people to ensure the fear of losing pets is not providing a barrier to vulnerable individuals accessing services. Sadly, many people currently face the harrowing choice of having to abandon pets to access services – which can be a catastrophic decision for them and the animal.
“Guidance should also be issued to local authorities on the importance of referencing pets in their statutory homelessness strategies. Sadly, no Council-led homeless strategy in Wales currently references animal welfare, and that is something the RSPCA wants to see change.
“Partnership working will be so important to achieve these – and we look forward to continuing our work with Jack, other charities and decision-makers at a local and national level, in the hope of ensuring human and animal welfare are integral considerations when people access these vital services.”
Jack Sargeant MS commented: “My involvement in this was inspired by a conversation with a homeless man about his pet. His story about not being able to access accommodation and keep his dog, really struck a chord with me.
“I am a dog lover myself and couldn’t abandon my own dog, so why should he?
“I hope the Welsh Government will act on our recommendations and create a position for a Pet Friendly Officer to increase accommodation and support options for pet owners by working with accommodation providers across Wales.”