7 Ways to Help Homeless Pet Owners

Genevieve Frederick recently got a call from a woman who was upset because she believed a homeless man was using his dog to get more money. She saw them frequently at her bus stop and said that the dog had grown up on the streets with the man.

“She wanted to know how to get the dog away from the homeless man,” said Frederick, founder and president of Pets of the Homeless, a national nonprofit that works to help the homeless feed and provide veterinary care for their animal companions. “She wasn’t considering the strong bond that had developed between the two. I suggested that she stop and give the dog treats and talk to the man about his situation.”

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless  3.5 million Americans are homeless. Five to 10 percent of homeless people have dogs and/or cats. In some areas of the country, the rate is as high as 24 percent. Pets of the Homeless have helped 17,641 animals that included dogs, cats, a pig, ferrets and reptiles.

Each homeless person has a unique story and staff at Pets of the Homeless hear these stories all the time. Some have lost their homes and jobs, some have mental disorders, some are addicts and some are parolees. Then there are homeless families, disabled, elderly, abused spouses, teens and veterans. Many are drawing social security or disability and live in their cars because they can’t afford housing.

How You Can Help Homeless Pet Owners

1. Choose Empathy over Judgement

Pets of the Homeless believes in the healing power of companion pets and of the human/animal bond which is very important in the lives of many homeless. Pets are non-judgemental and provide the homeless with unconditional love, warmth and security.

Living on the streets is dangerous especially for women (57 percent of the pets helped by Pets of the Homeless were owned by homeless women.) and the disabled. Pets also provide many homeless people with a lifeline to the rest of society.

Homeless Man Holding his Dog

“When people see a homeless person with a pet they are more likely to stop and ask them about the animals and that gets a conversation going,” Frederick said. “Most of us treat the homeless as invisible so they really appreciate these connections.”

If you are worried about a pet you see living on the street with a homeless person stop and ask how you can help. Does the pet need food, a collar and leash, dishes, a coat or blankets?

Be sure to provide the homeless person with information on organizations that provide help for pets. Pets of the Homeless provides support nationwide. The Guardians of Rescue helps homeless with pets in New York City through its Helping Paws of the Homeless program. The Humane Society of the United States provides a list of national organizations that offer financial assistance to pet owners in need.

Homeless people with pets face distinct challenges, Frederick said. Most shelters and hotels won’t accept pets so they have to choose between their pets or going inside for shelter. For homeless who don’t have cars, transportation is difficult especially if they have large dogs. They can’t take public transportation or get a taxi.

“One homeless man living in a rural area walked 10 miles pulling his injured dog in a wagon with a missing wheel to get to the closest animal hospital we could arrange for him,” Frederick said. “That’s how devoted he was to his dog.”

2. Make a Monetary Donation

Find an organization in your area that works with homeless people and pets, and consider helping financially. Donations can help cover the cost of pet food, veterinary care, and crates for shelters that allow pets to stay with their owners. Donations have helped Pets of the Homeless cover the cost of medical treatment for 17,641 pets, and counting. Make your donation go further, by taking advantage of company matching programs.


3. Donate Pet Food

Pets of the Homeless has collected and delivered 534.87 tons of pet food to help pets living with the homeless. You can help by donating pet food to a Pets of the Homeless drop-off location near you.

Pet food and supplies donation sites are located across the U.S. and in Canada. Pet food donations will be taken to a food bank, soup kitchen, homeless shelter or to the streets by volunteers.

4. Become a Volunteer/Recruiter

Pets of the Homeless is always in need of volunteers to help in recruiting pet food donation sites.

Potential donation sites include pet businesses such as veterinary hospitals and clinics, groomers, pet food stores, boutique pet stores, trainers and doggy daycare centers. Other member donation sites nationwide include schools, chiropractors, dentists, real estate offices, government offices, hair salons, banks and other businesses, as well as other nonprofits, are member donation sites.

5. Become a Pet Food Provider Site

Pets of the Homeless is in need of food banks, soup kitchens and homeless shelters willing to help distribute pet food to the homeless and poor who have pets.

6. Host a Fundraiser

Host a pet food drive at your school, church or business and donate the proceeds to an organization helping the homeless care for their pets. In lieu of gifts at birthday, wedding or another celebrations, ask for donations of pet food or monetary donations to benefit organizations helping pets of the homeless.

7. Volunteer at a Wellness Clinic

Pets of the Homeless provides sponsorships to help defer the costs for wellness clinics that provide immunizations, de-worming, flea and tick preventative care, spaying or neutering and other care. The organization is looking for volunteer veterinarians and assistants to go to places where the homeless congregate and administer veterinary care to pets of the homeless.

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Photos courtesy of Pets of the Homeless


Marie W
Marie W12 days ago

thanks for sharing

Shirley P
Shirley P2 months ago

Wonderful article, thank you, I learned info I didn't know before.

Cindy S
Cindy Smith3 months ago

omg so sad!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i would die

Chrissie R
Chrissie R3 months ago

Thanks for posting.

Carole R
Carole R3 months ago

This situation is so sad.

Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Margie FOURIE4 months ago

I read of a case where the dog was taken away for a homeless man. It was probably the last thing he had and if I were homeless, I would feed my dog before myself. An absolute tragedy.

KimJ M
KimJ M5 months ago


KimJ M
KimJ M5 months ago


KimJ M
KimJ M5 months ago