Pet-Friendly Centres Key to Helping Homeless Youth, Ottawa Authors Find

Photo: Burst, Shopify

By Jordan Haworth

Two Ottawa researchers say that homeless or at-risk youth are less likely to access drop-in centres if they have a pet.

Youth use drop-in centres for food, resources and support more than emergency shelters, said the analysis.

The analysis, published in the Animal section of the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, was co-authored by Nick Kerman from the University of Ottawa and Michelle Lem of the Community Veterinary Outreach in Carp, in addition to two other authors.

Youth who used drop-in centres reported more service linkage, lower substance use, and better HIV-related outcomes, said the authors.

Homeless youth are more likely to visit low-barrier drop-in centres and be linked to additional supports, like housing and employment, than all other service mediums, said the analysis.

The authors outlined the benefits of pets for at-risk youth, particularly related to mental health, self-care and motivation. However, youth are less likely to access resources and support if their pets are not welcomed.

They found that centres that are more inviting, including being physically, mentally and financially inclusive, had a higher chance of being used by youth. Not all centres were as inviting for animals.

Physical accessibility, including secure indoor or outdoor spaces for animals, with water, shade, and shelter, should be emphasized to reduce barriers. The authors recommend centres provide pet food and connect with mobile veterinary services as well.

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