How a loyal dog saved a homeless man's life


Shane Wolf was homeless and struggling with his mental health.

At a particularly low point, he wasn't sure that he could carry on, and considered taking his own life.

At his darkest moment, one of his dogs, Mr Fang, came up to him, and laid his head on his lap. He says he knew then he had a reason to live, and that his pets needed him to care for them.


A study involving the University of Nottingham has now found homeless people would rather stay out on the streets than give up their pet.

Researchers interviewed a group of 20 homeless or vulnerably housed dog owners from across the country and discovered:

  • Some owners admitted if they lost their pet, they would lose any incentive to take care of

    themselves

  • Many participants described their pets as kin - like friends or family, sharing closeness and unconditional love

  • The notion of animals as 'kin' appeared to create a sense of responsibility, giving them obligation for someone other than themselves


In the UK, it is estimated that one in two hundred people are homeless, accounting for 0.5% of the population, and this is rising in the wake of Covid.

1 in 200

are homeless in the UK

Pet ownership among homeless people is common, and has been linked with a range of health and social benefits, including alleviating loneliness, isolation and depression and a reduction in suicidal thoughts, substance abuse and criminal activity. 

But, lots of homeless people with pets struggle to get housing with their animals, as landlords can be reluctant to accept pets.

There's an awfully long way to go and there are still people who are sleeping rough because they've got a pet.

You don't have to be homeless to realise that a pet is good for your health and your well-being, how important they all are to all of us. I know many of us in lockdown have really lent on our pets, and accept that a pet is one of the family.

Dr Jenny Stavisky, University of Nottingham Veterinary School

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