Why do homeless people have dogs?

  Homeless woman with dogs 
  Originally uploaded by Franco Folini

Many homeless people have dogs. There are many theories why from for the company to it helps them get more money when begging to the dogs protect them and their belongs while they are sleeping. (I was in a Walgreens in downtown San Francisco once and I wondered why everybody in line had a bag of dog food until I got outside and saw a man with a dog begging. He was getting a lot of dog food!) Personally, I think homeless people have dogs for the company. Living on the streets is lonely and as every one know dogs make great, non-judgmental companions.

The other debate about homeless people with dogs is how good it is for the dogs. While a few people argue that the dogs enjoy being with someone all day long and getting lots of exercise walking around, most people agree that most street dogs (even those that belong to homeless people) are malnourished and are often not vaccinated or spayed or neutered. While there are some veterinary clinics that will treat the pets of the
poor for free or little cost, many of the homeless shelters will not
accept people that have pets. So both owners and pets are constantly exposed to the elements and often homeless people have other problems like mental illnesses or drug addictions which can affect their pets. (On the other hand, pets might be really good for them.)

I’ve heard as many of 5% of homeless people have pets but I don’t have any definite statistics.

27 comments for “Why do homeless people have dogs?

  1. Cyndi
    March 23, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    I think it’s horrible I live in Manhattan there are so many homeless people with so many homeless dogs I feel so bad for the dogs I always buy them dog food so I peel off the label on the back so the homeless people cannot go back into the store and return the food for cash. I just think it’s so sad seeing these poor dogs all over the people at least could go to with shelter dogs are not allowed in shelters

  2. lisa
    April 8, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    you can tell the dogs feel very uncomfortable and stupid in that situation but then so do the people it seems awfully cruel

  3. veronica swehla
    June 5, 2016 at 5:15 am

    I agree with Cyndi,
    These dogs are not pets or companions, they are simply hostages. Forced to live a life of loneliness, in dangerous situations, vulnerable of being kidnapped by predators who buy steal dogs for dog fighting. It makes me sick that there are no laws or that lack of enforcement to register these dogs as I have to for my three rescue dogs. These dogs with few exceptions suffer incredible amount of abuse..

  4. Marina
    July 11, 2016 at 1:53 am

    Hello,I understand the fear people have for the dogs who are living with homeless people. It is great to have compassion for the dogs!
    However, I feel that it is wrong to generalize a whole group of people who are homeless as abusive and neglegent of their pets.
    Many homeless people are good people who take good care of their pets. They kept them fed and it gives purpose to the lives of dogs.

    Many dogs in this country are put down. Many homeless people provide food and a life for dogs so that they are not put down.

    It is unfortunate to think that dogs are mistreated by people, but it is wrong to discriminate against all homeless people who have pets.

    Please do not take this as an attack but rather an idea for healthier thinking and passing love to all people how Jesus did.

  5. JJJ
    February 28, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    I think it varies. It’s probably a mix of keeping the dogs for company and using them for begging. Personally if I were going to be homeless I would look to rehome my dog asap before I end up on the streets. So I agree there is probably some selfishness in keeping them when you are homeless

  6. Debra
    May 14, 2017 at 1:16 am

    Speaking as a person who has been homeless with 2 dogs, a husband, abd a disabled child, I can say that these 2 dogs were our only tie to the normal we once knew and were crucial for us getting back there. It was not mental illness or addiction that led to our situation, but rather having been laid off and physical illness.

  7. gary james dean
    July 17, 2017 at 1:33 am

    why do homeless people people have pets if they can,t take care of themselves.i think that these people use their pets so they can get more money panhandling and to make people feel even more sorry for them.

  8. Linda
    August 17, 2017 at 3:56 am

    I think “these” people need some love and companionship. We all have had bad days or maybe weeks or even years. My doggie doesn’t care how I look. Where I live. What job I do every day or how much money I have. I love him very much. If I can help anyone get a did or puppy let me know. Mine saved my life

  9. Iman
    September 23, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    It depends on every situation yes it’s bad for the dog to be homeless however there are so meany homeless pets. It’s better then being put down at least they have a chance to survive

  10. Sylvia
    October 11, 2017 at 6:35 am

    I know there are nice homeless people that truly care and love their dogs but if I truly loved my animal I would not put them through this I would try and find a home for my dog,i have seen some of these pets they are malnourished and dirty and they have no choice but to stay with their owners.I would not put my pet through this just like I would not put my child through this.,i could not stand to see them suffer.

  11. T
    December 22, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Maybe they keep their pets because they love them and trust that panhandling gets you no money.

    These people on here care more about a dog than people. smdh. Also, stop judging the homeless. I stayed in a shelter for 6 months then ended up with a income of 90k and three new cars and expensive jewellery earning more. the people who deserted me now

  12. Melissa
    February 16, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    I think some of the dogs were already homeless and met up with a homeless person and neither are not alone anymore. I think it is better than the dog being put down in a shelter.

  13. April 7, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    I’m sorry but I think it’s better for a dog to have an owner then be put to sleep. I feel bad for these people, sure did they have a choice in life to get up a make a decision to go work and do the right thing in life …..sure but we don’t know the history of these people, I think that if we had more support for mental illness there would be fewer people out there like some of them. also things happen in life and you can’t change things unless you want too and you have to be in your right mind. Which I think is the problem that most of these people (not all of them ) turn to drugs because of there mental illness Just my thoughts!…..I agree with T that awesome that you made the right decisions to help yourself

  14. Clff
    June 2, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    I am homeless I had a pitbull I bought a rv but it caught on fire I tried 3 times to get in to save my dog and I almost died my dog did not make it I’m trying to get another one if someone could help me

  15. Susan Churchill
    September 8, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    I was very homeless but I worked and had a car my dog came first his shots is food there was never any negligence that towards my dog he had a better life than most dogs if people would stop and use their heads most of these homeless people take better care of their animals than they do themselves as far as feeding and taking care and another thing you think a dog would want to be in a home in a cage for 12 hours a day or out with their owners all day and people got to use their heads you think it’s okay to sit a dog in a cage at home all day.. what’s more abusive

  16. Jacqueline
    March 18, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    I currently have no brick and mortar home. My dog and I just recently started car camping, and it was not our decision. Things happen. I used to be a homeowner. Then I was diagnosed – not with a mental illness, but a permanent illness. Testing out the wazoo. Then came the medical bills. The job loss. The denial by the insurance companies (yes, more than one) to cover disability. I could not find a lawyer who, within my budget, would take my case. It took 3 years to get my medications correct for stability. Then 2 years to be approved for disability. Ah, I forgot to throw in the bankruptcy and foreclosure. And the closure of every single savings account I had. Paying for medical bills while trying to keep your home is NOT cheap. It is awesome when you are WELL within your budget while working, but with ZERO income a “pre-existing condition” so COBRA and the subsequent insurance charges you out the wazoo. Yeah, that’s a problem. When your medications are brand name and with no insurance cost $25,000 annually. Yep. She and I have been together for 9 years now. She lost my roommate. And everytime I leave her too long to go into the store she gets worried that I won’t come back. The anxiety is clear. She was away from me ONCE for 2 weeks in all this time and would take to fits of whining the entire time. I’m telling you my story for this reason, particularly the “judgy” ones. You don’t know the story of any of these people. She has all of her shots. She still eats her high end dog food because she is allergic to crappy food and it makes her sick. I still bathe and groom her. We take care of each other. And yes, we recently gave some of her food to a man hitchhiking with his dog. He said thank you, and then asked what kind it was because his dog has allergies to food dyes. He cares about what his dog eats.

  17. Tammie Mallory
    March 22, 2019 at 2:33 am

    You all upset me. They are not “these people” but human beings like you are. You do not know their situations and how they became homeless. Have you not heard “judge not lest ye be judged?” Anyone can become homeless at any time at the drop of a hat. My friend Sheryl kept her cats with her living in her car for a year until she got on her feet. They kept her sane and she would feed them before herself. They kept her living and not giving up. It’s a shame people can’t be as non-judgmental as animals!

  18. Brandon
    April 7, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Its mostly rich stuck up white people who leave these idiotic comments about poor dogs. Im white myself. Also, as having homeless friends who have dogs, they take better care of their dogs then most people with money and a home do. They make sure they are healthy and have food and water at all times. While your dogs are domesticated into uselessness their dogs are happy and still able to know whats being a dog. Not in a cage that causes anxiety but still safe and loved. Crate training is bullshit abuse and a scape goat to not deal with your dog when the dog inconveniences you. These people, huh care about humans even if they are addicted to drugs or do not have a want to work. Maybe there is a reason. Uppity ass individuals who really have the worst problems but are to scared to face them.

  19. Catherine daniels
    May 19, 2019 at 5:23 am

    I have two dogs.and when Wednesday come we will be homeless me my dog and my aunt.like many on here I work part time taking care of seniors in their homes two hours a day.iam on disability.i just got robbed. And had a home invasion because people around me were doing thing from my home and I didn’t know well I lost my house to a crooked man.tjat the devil advocate.moved into an apartment that I could not afford.i was making it intill I let my son move in.and that was him lying about helping me pay bill.he helped his girlfriend while helping himself to my car to go to work. So now we have been homeless two weeks and with the price of rent we homeless for real.call me lazy call me anything u want but u don’t know my story.all I can say is I hope it don’t happen to u.

  20. Chris H.
    May 28, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    As a former veterinary assistant who is now homeless, I can tell you that the comments here of people stigmatizing homeless people and their pets reek of a lack of understanding and/or real empathy. You don’t know a god damn thing until you have been there. And the same people who chastise homeless owners and their pets are probably the same people who praise the saving grace that pets have on a person’s mental stability.

    Homeless people have pets for the same reason people with homes have pets. Because it is a labor of love and the joy that comes having a true companion instills people with happiness and humanity. Period.

  21. M Naude
    June 2, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Homeless people have pets because the rest of us so-called humanitarians are horrible at helping and supporting others without bias. However, dog feel and give love back without judging the person feeding them.

  22. Gav
    August 11, 2019 at 11:19 am

    As long as the dog is cared for:
    1. Wormed
    2. Flee treatment
    3. Washed
    4. Adequate food
    5. Shelter from the cold or heat such as a bivi bag or tent with blankets or a sleeping bag.
    A USB cooling fan is a great idea too, same with a dehumidifier. You can recharge these using a portable solar panel. Keep the shelter dry and warm and no problem. My bivi bag only weighs 1kg and big enough for me and my best friend. Even when I sleep with my dog in a tent she crawls out of the sleeping bag and prefers to sleep on top of any covers. She’s a small dog and still warm enough.

    If the owner can provide these things there is no problem at all. All of these things are easy to fulfill, even as a homeless person. I speak from experience and spending lots of time homeless.
    I’m not actually homeless for once, just got a place to live and I’m now 40 lol. I’m still an outdoors person and so is my best friend, but this is how I care for her on my outdoor trips.

  23. Jim Ross
    September 4, 2019 at 3:39 am

    I just published a piece about homeless people and their dogs in a lit journal called Kestrel. It’s a print journal, but if anyone is interested I can provide a pdf of the 12-page story with photos taken internationally. i wish I had a web link but I don’t. I think all of you who went to the trouble of commenting would find the story interesting.

  24. MTC
    October 25, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I THINK MOST OF THESE TYPE OF HOMELESS PEOPLE WHO 99 percent are drug addicts get a dog to make you feel sorry for them therefore they collect a lot more money. When they get tired of the dog they just let it go on the streets.
    Don’t tell me otherwise. I see it all the time. They are low lives who really have no respect for decent people all they care about is prostitution and getting their next fix It’s disgusting. And it isn’t going to get any better

  25. jeff_day
    July 4, 2020 at 11:22 am

    wait, you’re saying these dogs get tons of exercise every day, exposure to all sorts of interesting stimuli (people/other dogs/smells/sights), infinite one-on-one attention and affection from owner, AND they get to keep their balls?

  26. Krista
    July 18, 2020 at 5:39 am

    Bunch of incredibly ignorant comments from incredibly ignorant people! I hope each and every one of you experience homelessness someday. I lived homeless with homeless people who had dogs. They usually befriend strays, are given a dog by a friend, but these dogs are NOT hostages being used to panhandle! Landlords discriminate more and more against pets, making it even more difficult for people to stay housed. The ignorance and apathy from the housed is just disgusting beyond belief!

  27. Erin
    September 9, 2020 at 10:53 am

    I just became homeless. I am not on drugs. I do not drink and while I do have mental illness, it is not the cause of my homelessness. I had a home. I paid my bills. I shared the bills with two other room mates. One of them paid their share. The other did not. We ALL became homeless because one person did not hold up their end of the agreement. I work almost full time. I can’t get my boss to give me a full 40 hour week. I get paid only federal minimum wage. The waiting list for public housing where I live is well over 2 years long. I spent $75 on my dog for food and other necessities this paycheck. For myself? $15. While I go hungry? My dog will have everything she needs including all the love and affection I can give her. Every year nearly 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized. They live in tiny cages surrounded by constant screaming of scared, lonely, pained animals every minute up until the point that they are put down. You’re telling me that because I am homeless, my baby should have to go and live like this? Where from the moment she is put in there the timer begins. Each shelter is only allowed to spend a given $$$ amount per animal before they MUST be either adopted or euthanized. Guess what? MY $$ limit is never-ending. It never runs out. If it takes me $75 every single pay check for the rest of my dog’s life… that is what she will get. If it takes more. She’ll get more. And she will not be alone and scared and confused on death row.

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