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The Mayhew’s 17 Years Working with the Homeless

This month, The Mayhew Animal Home is marking 17 years since we started helping and providing personal support for the homeless and their pets. Since 2000, The Mayhew was one of the first animal charities to start working with the homeless.

As well as reaching out to rough sleepers on the streets in many London boroughs, The Mayhew’s Animal Welfare Officers visit 15 homeless centres regularly each year and work tirelessly with several organisations including Thames Reach, Spitalfields Crypt Trust, The Salvation Army, St Mungo’s, Crisis, and Broadway Homeless Hostel and Drop in Centre, to offer support and advice to homeless people.

A dog is often a homeless person’s only companion, but the added expense of vet and food bills puts an extra burden on people who are already in a vulnerable situation. However, our Animal Welfare Officers offer all homeless dog owners free general health checks and microchipping and we provide collars with tags and leads, jackets for the dogs in the winter months, dog food, treats and poo bags. Not only do we supply vital items for the animal, we are also there to support and advise the owner too, however difficult the situation may be, we never judge, and we are always available to help.

We encourage and give their dogs free neutering, vaccinations and a general health check with a Mayhew vet on site at our Community Vet Clinic. We also attend the annual Crisis at Christmas and set up a temporary clinic with our vet and Animal Welfare Officers to give homeless guests’ dogs a thorough health check and preventative veterinary care. We offer advice and assistance on caring for their dog while they receive help and support from Crisis.

We also run a Pet Refuge scheme, which provides support and foster care for pet owners facing a personal crisis and with no option of help to care for their pet. This may be for a number of reasons including hospitalisation, old age, rehab, detox for alcohol and drug addiction, or even those sent to prison.

Pet Refuge involves our Animal Welfare Officers finding the best possible foster carer for the dog or cat for the duration of the crisis period, ensuring that the animal is placed into the familiar environment of a home rather than a potentially stressful shelter environment. For many people facing a personal crisis, our service is a lifeline.

Head of Animal Welfare, Zoe Edwards, with Wully, Gallis and Bo

The Mayhew’s Head of Animal Welfare, Zoe Edwards, said: “In this job you deal with a lot of situations where the owner is going through a hard time and just needs some support and advice to help them with their animal.”

“We are often referred to as ‘Animal Social Workers’ because we are able to help and support vulnerable people in need with their animals – and ultimately keep the owner and animal together.”

“I remember helping a local homeless man, Wully, and his two gorgeous dogs, Gallis and Bo. When I first met Wully he was sadly living on the streets and was completely addicted to drinking alcohol. He had been drinking since he was 11-years-old and would drink four bottles of super strength cider a day, and is convinced that he would not have survived much longer had we not persuaded him to put his dogs into our Pet Refuge programme and go to rehab.”

“This case just shows how important our homeless work and projects are for vulnerable people and without them this could have ended very differently for Wully.”

We have helped hundreds of homeless dogs and their owners over the years. In the past month alone, we have assisted dogs including 11-year-old Mimi, a black and white Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and eight-year-old Bobby, a blue Staffordshire Bull Terrier; they both usually come in to our Vet Clinic with their owner Andrew for a general health check.

Homeless client Andrew with Mimi and Bobby and Animal Welfare Officer, Alisa Ford

Andrew is one of our regular homeless hostel clients who we support and this time he called us directly as he was concerned about some cysts and lumps that he discovered on Mimi. Our Animal Welfare Officers arranged a vet check at our clinic straight away and both dogs were also given flea and worm treatments.

We also visit several homeless hostels where we check on doggy residents such as Stella, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Stella gave her owner, Ian, a real fright when she suddenly stopped being her bouncy, playful self. At 15-years-old, Stella still acted like a young pup, so when she became quiet and withdrawn, Ian knew something was wrong. Ian went to the local homeless hostel, who had The Mayhew’s emergency number, and called us up immediately.

Animal Welfare Officers, Tania Mazzoni and Alisa Ford, with Stella and her owner Ian

Our Animal Welfare Officers arranged for Stella to come into our Community Vet Clinic straight away for a thorough health check. They discovered Stella’s tooth had become severely infected causing her terrible pain. Our Vet Team took an X-Ray and discovered that the tooth would need to be removed, but not before the infection was cleared up.

Stella was provided with a three-week long course of antibiotics and seven days of anti-inflammatories, which thankfully got rid of the infection and allowed our Vets to perform surgery and remove the decaying tooth. We also gave Stella a scale and polish, and flea and worm treatments. She stayed with us for two nights until we were confident she was able to be back on all four paws again. Our Animal Welfare Officers continue to regularly check in to see how Stella and Ian are doing and to make sure she has plenty of food supplies.

During the month, we also neutered a three-legged homeless Staffy called Sugar, who also spent a couple of nights boarding at The Mayhew, while she recovered from the surgery.

Our Animal Welfare Officers have built up a trusted relationship with the homeless, so much so that they call our Officers and turn to them for support and help whatever the situation, including Lucky and her owner Gulbar Hussain.

Lucky with owner Gulbar Hussain and Animal Welfare Officer, Tania Mazzoni

Poor Lucky had been hit by a car last year while she had been crossing the street near Portobello Road, London, with her owner Gulbar. In this particular case, we covered all of the veterinary costs for Lucky as her owner was in a vulnerable situation.

For many homeless people, their dog is their best friend, so we are proud to have helped keep them together and to provide essential veterinary care to so many animals over the past 17 years.

Every year our Animal Welfare Officers and Community Vet Clinic respond to hundreds of animals in need. We rely solely on public donations and receive no lottery or government funding. So please consider a donation to help them help even more animals.

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