By Lorna Hinde, Ark Volunteer.
Many of us own dogs. We love them. They are our friends and become part of our family. So you can understand why our homeless and more vulnerable clients will not be parted from their dogs. The dogs are family members. They are company, hot water bottles, someone to love and offer unconditional love in return. The health and wellbeing of their dogs is often a major priority for our clients. However, life on the streets and lack of resources makes it very difficult to access the veterinary care they sometimes require.
At Shrewsbury Ark our initial route to helping our clients with street dogs was through the Dogs Trust. One of the major problems was that the council was unable to offer even temporary accommodation to anyone with a dog. Sometimes the dogs had to be put into kennels to enable their owners to be housed. This was very stressful for all concerned. Thank goodness things have changed.
For our clients with dogs, Shrewsbury Ark and Shropshire Council now try to secure housing so they can be together. We have also become part of a nationwide scheme called StreetVet, a charity which aims to bring essential care to homeless people and their dogs.
Setting up SteetVet was not without its teething problems! However, after many e mails, phone calls, meetings, visits to local vets etc, and with particular help from Miriam (former Outreach worker at the Ark, who really knew the street dogs and their owners), Rebecca Rea (member of the public with a very keen interest in helping our homeless clients and their dogs), Jade Statt (co-founder of StreetVet) and myself, Lorna Hinde (volunteer worker at the Ark), StreetVet is now up and running in Shrewsbury and helping street dogs, who previously may have had to go without the care they need and deserve.
In recent months, some of our clients have been able to access health checks and flea and worm treatment for their dogs, an emergency operation and sadly, a cremation. This included the offer of bereavement counselling, return of the ashes and a portrait of the dog, all of which were so important.
Animal Trust, at Coleham Head, is the veterinary surgery which is linked to StreetVet in Shrewsbury. Anyone who is homeless or vulnerable and has a dog, first needs to register with Shrewsbury Ark. They are then eligible to access the Animal Trust surgery when needed.
Our clients have been so grateful and relieved to have the ability to use this much needed service. Cherry Teearu, the Ark's Outreach worker and Mollie Bailey-Sale , a vet at Animal Trust, who volunteers for Street Vet, are aiming to expand the service in Shrewsbury, to make it even more accessible for our clients.
Cherry commented " I first joined the Ark as a volunteer in August 2019, at which time I was unaware of the service being set up between the Ark, StreetVet and Animal Trust. What I was aware of however, was how loved and cared for all of our clients’ dogs were. I moved away for a while, but returned to the Ark as the new Outreach Worker in October 2020.
"Before lockdown, Lorna was coming out on outreach with me every Friday. It was on one of our outreach trips that she told me about Streetvet. After a few phone calls and Zoom meetings, myself, Mollie, and Berry (our lovely volunteer ‘outreach’ vets) met up to discuss how we could improve the service we offer, by providing a walk-in vet clinic at the Ark on a regular basis."
"I’m so excited to get this up and running as it will ensure all the much loved dogs will have regular check-ups and be kept happy and healthy."
Volunteer Street Vet Mollie continued; "I and my partner Berry are both recent veterinary graduates eager to make a difference where we can. After graduating we volunteered for Streetvet Birmingham, but through living and working in Shrewsbury we were acutely aware that perhaps our services were needed a little bit closer to home. We thus contacted Jade (founder of Streetvet) to see what could be done to help the homeless people and their pets in Shrewsbury. "
"As it turns out a partnership between Streetvet and Animal Trust Shrewsbury was already in it’s infancy and we were delighted to find that Ark outreach workers Cherry and Lorna were eager and excited to move this forward."
"Since then we have been able to provide routine and emergency veterinary care to those in need and are looking forward to delivering a drop in centre in the near future. I would like to take the opportunity to praise The Ark and Shropshire council for trying to keep people and pets together when providing accommodation. An initiative that is echoed by Streetvet Accredited Hostel Scheme and hopefully soon to be supported by Jasmine's law which has passed it’s first reading in the House of Commons."
"Jasmine’s law was put into motion as a result of the tragic loss of John Chadwick, a homeless man who ended his life after being forced to separate from his beloved pet in order to access housing. Currently if homeless people refuse housing on the grounds of a no pet rule they are then considered ‘voluntarily homeless’ and loose access to any funding or future help."
"I cannot stress enough the depth of the bond between homeless people and their pets. From a veterinary perspective these animals are in just as good as, if not better, condition than many of the pets I see from housed accommodation and more often than not owners care more for their pets more than they care for themselves. Berry and I look forward to supporting the excellent work of The Ark, Streetvet and Shropshire council in 2021."