The health and welfare of dogs belonging to homeless people

Should homeless people be allowed to keep pets? How will the health of dogs owned by the homeless be?

Homeless people have a tough existence. Often they have few friends compared to those living in settled homes and have little opportunity to develop caring relationships with others. Thus having a dog that can on the one hand provide emotional support to their owners and on the other give homeless people an individual to care for themselves. Yet many people would argue that homeless people should not be allowed to keep dogs.In their opinion dogs owned by the homeless are likely to be in poorer health than those living in homes and with a lower level of welfare.

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Williams and Hogg (Pet Behaviour Science, vol 1, 23-30), through a comparison of 50 dogs owned by homeless people and 50 owned by those in settled accommodation, show that, to the contrary dogs owned by homeless people have at least as good a level of health, are less likely to be obese and had fewer behavioural issues such as aggression and separation anxiety. This, the first such survey of dogs owned by homeless people, shows that, contrary to the commonly held view that dogs owned by the homeless have poor health and welfare, they are generally as healthy and with equal or better welfare levels than dogs owned by settled individuals.

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