Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Homeless persons-Services for, Homeless persons-Psychology, Pet owners-Services for, Pet owners-Psychology, Pets-Therapeutic use., Homelessness, Homeless, Human-animal bond, Companion animal, Pet, Social provisions, San Francisco Community Clinic Consortium. Veterinary Street Outreach Services, Veterinary Street Outreach Services


This qualitative study explores homeless pet owners' perceptions regarding their experience of homelessness and the impact of companion pet accompaniment on this experience. In-person, semi-structured interviews were held with a diverse sample of 12 homeless pet owners receiving services from Veterinary Street Outreach Services (VET SOS), a volunteer-based project providing free veterinary care for the companion animals of homeless individuals in San Francisco. Participant narratives were used to explore the complexities of the experience of homelessness while being accompanied by a companion animal, personal experiences of homelessness, insights concerning the bond shared between companion animals and owner, and the experience of navigating the homeless service system. Findings indicate that the majority of participants felt that having a pet while homeless may buffer against some of the hardships associated with homelessness in a number of areas. Participant responses generally focused on their pets' helpful qualities and characteristics and the benefits afforded them by pet ownership, to which they attributed an improvement in their own emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Implications of the findings for practice, policy and research are discussed, with emphasis on the importance of service development to support and protect the human-companion animal bond.




iv, 69 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 58-60)