StreetVet is a volunteer service that supports animals belonging to people who are homeless: dogs, in the vast majority of cases. Launched by two vets in 2016, StreetVet is a registered practice with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, operating in multiple locations around England. We spoke to Hove resident and StreetVet volunteer Roz Wright, from the Brighton branch – which has one of the largest workloads nationwide – to find out more.
StreetVet Brighton runs alongside Sussex Homeless Support’s regular soup kitchen at the Clock Tower, every Sunday 1-3pm. “We hand out food, treats, coats, harnesses and more to people who need them for their pets. We’ll also treat any dogs that need a check up. Sometimes a dog might need emergency care during the week, so their owner might message us about a concern. Occasionally we’ll organise for them to go to a practice if they need to be seen before we can get to them. And we have an out-of-hours service that can see them if it’s a critical emergency at night”.
One important part of StreetVet’s work is to counter the common perception that people who are homeless should not own animals. “A lot of the time those dogs have either come along prior to them being homeless, or they’ve been acquired as a result of the dog being in worse circumstances, and the homeless person is effectively rescuing them from that situation. It can be very traumatic for a dog who might have spent all their life with one person, albeit on the streets, to then be taken away and put into a different environment that they’re not used to, like kennelling.
“We’ve also got quite a lot of dogs who are medical assistance dogs to their owners, who can help with things like seizure assistance, PTSD, anxiety. So to remove that animal from the owner would be distressing on both sides. You don’t want to see a dog sitting there looking sad in th
e cold, but actually a lot of dogs are happier being with a person all the time, being out and about, socialising with people, rather than sitting at home while people are at work. There’s pluses and minuses in both camps really.”
Another aspect of StreetVet’s work is to build relationships with people who are homeless, and getting to the bottom of what treatment their dogs might need. “A huge part of StreetVet is gaining the trust of people who’ve had some very difficult experiences. They’ve lost trust with a lot of people. Having the same people coming to see them makes a huge difference, so they can convince them that their dog does need a blood test, vaccination, or a micro chip for example”.
Donations are welcomed of dog food, toys, treats, harnesses, leads, coats etc. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting involved. streetvet.co.uk