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Housing

StreetVet vows to end ‘impossible choice’ between a pet and a home

The new StreetVet Accredited Hostel Scheme aims to give hostels the tools to become more pet friendly

A new national ‘pet friendly’ hostel accreditation scheme hopes to prevent people affected by homelessness from facing the agonising choice between shelter and their animal companions this winter.

StreetVet’s Accredited Hostel Scheme is aiming to offer free, accessible veterinary care to hostels just as the charity has done on the streets since 2016.

The scheme will also give support and training to hostel staff as well as bring positive pet policies which mean no resident has to leave their pet to get a place to stay.

Any pet lover will understand that choosing between a roof over your head and the company of your beloved pet is no choice at all

That heart-breaking decision has been the reality for far too long insists StreetVet co-founder and vet Jade Statt. She said: “Under current regulations, if people turn down housing due to no pets clauses, they are told they are making themselves intentionally homeless and are refused further housing assistance.

Any pet lover will understand that choosing between a roof over your head and the company of your beloved pet is no choice at all.

“Our hope is that in setting up the StreetVet Accredited Hostel Scheme, fewer people will have to make this impossible choice.”

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StreetVet’s scheme launches with the backing of £40,000 from pet food maker Purina after the charity scooped their annual BetterwithPets prize in June.

There is already a waiting list of 20 hostels interested in signing up to the scheme with Hemel Hempstead’s The Elms becoming the first accredited hostel this week.

That status will give hostel manager Sean Fitzgerald and the Elms residents access to free pet food and toys, online consultations and training for staff to look after residents’ pets. Animal welfare charity Blue Cross will provide training materials and StreetVet will be on hand to support with transport to vet practices and emergency kennelling.

Fitzgerald said he sees the benefits pets give residents at The Elms every day and the scheme helped improve the pet policies at the hostel.

“We know StreetVet will be there whenever we need them in an emergency,” he added. “We would encourage as many hostels as possible to get involved.”

The scheme comes just a month after Dogs Trust and Simon Community Scotland joined forces to make hostels more pet-friendly in Scotland, appointing their first pets and housing development and engagement officer. The dogs charity also run the Welcoming Dogs scheme across the UK to help hostels prepare to accept dogs.

No pet lover would want to be separated from their pet, especially when going through a very difficult time in their life

StreetVet co-founder Statt told The Big Issue that she has been in conversation with the Scottish project and hopes that the “synergy” between the two projects will give hostel staff new power to care for pets as well as their owners.

“I think that people who are in charge of running hostels face quite a daunting task to take on something new,” she said. “I hope that with what the Dogs Trusts are doing in Scotland and what we’re trying to do is actually going to facilitate accommodating residents with pets in the easiest way that we can so that it becomes a surmountable proposition.”

StreetVet has seen a huge increase in people seeking their services during 2020, with a 50 per cent increase in clients in Bournemouth during lockdown alone.

And they are braced for increased demand over the winter, according to Statt, as the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy starts to take hold.

The charity’s hostel accreditation scheme is just part of efforts to support homeless people and their pets and the initiative has earned the praise of ambassador and television presenter Clare Balding. She said: “Pets are more than animals, they are our family and friends. No pet lover would want to be separated from their pet, especially when going through a very difficult time in their life.”

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