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  1. ITV Report

'Our service is needed now more than ever': The volunteer vets helping the homeless and their dogs

The festive season may mean winding down for many, but the workload is only ramping up for a team of volunteer vets dedicated to treating the dogs of the UK's homeless.

The qualified StreetVet workers hit the streets four days a week in nine cities, dedicating their spare time to provide treatments, food and blankets for the animals sleeping rough with their owners.

Since being founded in 2016 they have treated over 500 dogs, who are often their owner's only source of comfort, company and mental support.

Belle has been by Mick's side for six years, since the day he rescued her from a plastic bag in a canal when she was just six weeks' old.

Mick says he'd be lost without his pet dog Belle, who he rescued from a canal. Credit: ITV News

When she was hit by a train she faced being put down - until the volunteers stepped in.

"StreetVet saved her. When she went to hospital, StreetVet took over and financed it," Mick told ITV News.

Belle still lost an eye and a leg but is recovering well. Without her Mick said he'd be lost.

"I'm so happy with her, 'cause I've had four strokes and she brought me back to life," he said.

Sam Joseph, co-founder of the charity, said besides invaluable support, the animals can be life savers.

Sam Joseph, co-founder of the charity volunteer vets and nurses are 'needed now more than ever'. Credit: ITV News

"We find a lot of people that we've met suffer from addiction, mental health problems as well, and having a dog or a companion, sometimes a cat as well, just gives people a little more responsibility and maybe a little bit more of a purpose to get up and just live their lives," he told ITV News.

Sam said the volunteer vets and nurses are "needed now more than ever" following a sharp increase in homelessness.

Charities estimate the around 24,000 people sleep rough across the UK, far above the most recent government estimate of 4,751 - which is already more than double the number in 2010.

The increased demand means the StreetVet team has grown dramatically in the last year alone, going from a team of 50 to around 350, and will soon be expanding to a tenth city.

Bullseye, one of StreetVet's first ever patients, is his owner's 'best friend'. Credit: ITV News

They also step in when the pets make it harder for their owners to get a roof over their head.

Bullseye was one of the StreetVet's first patients.

They dealt with him at a point when he and his owner had been unable to find a place as the majority of hostels do not accept dogs.

"When you're on the streets it's a bit more difficult to get accommodation," his owner told ITV News.

But he said splitting up was never an option.

"I'm not giving him up just for a room - he's my best friend and he's staying with me."

More information about StreetVet can be found at: www.streetvet.co.uk