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The unbreakable bond: The mental health benefits and challenges of pet ownership for people experiencing homelessness
journal contributionposted on 30.08.2021, 02:55 by Michelle L Cleary, Sancia West, Denis Visentin, Monique Phipps, Mark Westman, Kristina Vesk, Rachel Kornhaber
Pet ownership provides a unique relationship that is beneficial to many aspects of the pet owner’s life, including mental health and companionship. Mental health and social isolation are negatively impacted by homelessness, increasing the importance of the owner-pet bond during this time. However, this relationship is complicated by the need for pet owners to urgently find accommodation for themselves while still caring for their pets. This paper explores two firsthand narratives of the relationship between a person and their pets during a period of homelessness and subsequent search for accommodation. Both narratives highlight important aspects of the emotional bond between owner and pet: the concept of choosing pet over place; improved mental health and changed behaviours; and stressors or negative emotions of parental concern, separation anxiety and grief. These narratives emphasise the importance of supporting, expanding and creating new pet-friendly crisis and permanent accommodation options for pet owners experiencing homelessness.