A mobile vet clinic has launched in Manchester city centre to help homeless people treat their dogs.
Volunteers at the Street Paws charity know that for people living on the streets a dog can be a lifeline, with many rather sleeping rough than being parted from their pets.Once a month a team of vets and vet nurses offer free checks, food and treats to any animals sleeping rough.
It also allows their owners to discuss any other concerns they might have about their pets.
Michelle Southern, founder of Street Paws, said much of their work is built on trust between owners and volunteers.
At first many homeless people are wary for fear their dog is taken away from them.
A lot of people don’t want help because they’re terrified of being separated. “It can take a little bit of time for people to trust us and let us help. A common problem at the moment is when a roughsleeper falls ill and ends up in hospital. Quite often their dogs are picked up as strays and end up with the warden. “We offer free microchipping so if that does happen whoever finds the dog warden can find out who it belongs to. If someone is taken into hospital, their dog can stay at Manchester and Cheshire Dogs Home until they're better.”
Street Paws have now teamed up with the PDSA to provide a monthly mobile vet clinic in Manchester city centre.
It means the Street Paws volunteers are able to carry out veterinary care in the PDSA’s treatment bus.
General health checks, vaccinations, flea and worming treatments can all be provided in the mini-mobile vet clinic.
Food, treats and even little coats to keep dogs warm are also on offer for those in need.
The first owner and dog the team come across in Piccadilly Gardens is a 20-week old Staffie cross called Delilah. The dog and her owner, who asked not to be named, are well known faces to the Street Paws team.
It turns out Delilah had been missing for two weeks and had turned up at Manchester and Cheshire Dogs Home. The team are pleased to hear she’s been reunited with her owner.
The 32-year-old woman waits while Delilah has her second round of vaccinations as well as a general check with the vet.
I couldn’t live without a dog. “She’s my best friend and she protects me. She snuggles up to me in my sleeping bag at night. I couldn’t live on the streets without her. “We’re training her at the minute like you would any puppy.”
The vet says Delilah is in good health and gives her a little coat and a new lead.
Katja Londa, a practising vet in Saddleworth, has volunteered with the PDSA for many years.
“They are definitely well looked after these dogs,” says Katja.
They definitely tend to be very healthy as well. Owners have a very close bond with their dogs. They look after them well, they feed them well. “The dogs are often much better fed than the people themselves are. A lot of people have said to us their dog is the reason they're alive.”
Katja and the team check the dogs' eyes, ears, teeth and chests.Particular attention goes on their paws because they spend so much time walking.
Another dog-owner on Oxford Road says his Staffie Pepper gives him a reason to get up in the morning.
The man, who had been homeless for four years, said:
I feel safe if he’s here. “He’s my mate and my responsibility. Everyday I have to get up, feed and look after him. Every now and again you get someone who accuses you of having a dog to get money, but I had Pepper before I was homeless. “The bond between us is there and that’s priceless. I'd never had a Staffie before him and now I would never have another type of dog. They're brilliant."
The man is given some packets of food for Pepper after having a chat with Katja about his condition.
The Street Paws don’t find many dog-owners on their round of the city centre tonight.
One of the biggest challenges is reaching dogs and their owners,” says Katja.
Some nights like tonight we will come out and see hardly any dogs. Other nights we will see many."
Not all dog owners want help. One man with another Staffie on Market Street doesn’t want to speak to the team.
But then another man who has recently come off the streets and secured a home stops to speak to the team about getting support for his cat.
They exchange details and advise the man brings his cat along to their clinic at the Booth Centre on the first Friday of every month.