The Animals & Society Institute in collaboration with My Dog is My Home used a generous grant from Maddie’s Fund® to explore and describe current approaches to “co-sheltering” of people experiencing homelessness with their companion animals.
The lack of animal-friendly policies and practices in many shelters and social service agencies means people experiencing homelessness are often asked to choose between their companion animals and shelter. The goal of this qualitative study was to better understand how service providers are accommodating homeless clients who have companion animals. Using a comparative case study approach, we conducted individual interviews with staff and focus groups with clients with and without animals at four homeless shelters in the U.S. and Canada.
The study assessed animal-friendly homeless shelters’ current approaches to handling animals accompanied by people experiencing homelessness, documenting challenges, key issues, and lessons learned. Project findings will inform development of animal-friendly policies and practices in homeless shelters nationwide, reducing the likelihood that animals will be relinquished simply because their caregivers are experiencing a period of homelessness. Further, the project lays the groundwork for more intensive outcome-based research on the effects of such policies and practices on the well-being of pets and people alike.