Author: Dr Stephanie Hing, Animal Welfare Policy and Research Manager, RSPCA Western Australia and CAWSEL 2017 attendee
I’ve had the privilege of volunteering at community outreach days where RSPCA Inspectors, dog trainers and vet clinic staff join together with local council rangers and vet nursing students to help dogs belonging to people who may otherwise not be able to afford pet care. On offer is free advice about desexing and other aspects of dog care, microchipping, health checks, food, flea prevention, worming, leads and collars.
Some of the people who bring their dogs along to community outreach days are homeless, many are disadvantaged and the majority are dealing with hardships we can only imagine. In some cases, their dog is their only constant companion.
Though it may be easy to say, “don’t have a pet unless you can afford to pay for care”, to counter that view, I reflect on the effervescent Dr David Williams’ lecture at CAWSEL 2017. Dr Williams discussed his study of homeless people and their pets in Cambridge. Our local context differs to Cambridge particularly in that charity vet services are less readily available in comparison to the UK but it is still worthy of note that –
(Williams and Hogg 2016)
People from all walks of life love their dogs and care for them in different ways. After direct involvement in community outreach days, learning about homeless pet charity programs and lectures at CAWSEL 2017 about the human animal bond, it has become clear to me that if we want to improve animal welfare, it is more constructive to do what we can to help rather than judge.