Windsor

1 in 4 homeless people own pets, says UWindsor prof

Working at the University of Windsor, Beth Daly has done extensive research into the relationship between humans and animals. She said homeless people and their pets tend to be "extremely" attached.

'Most homeless people tend to take care of their animals first'

Licensing your dog in Windsor is mandatory, but an address is required for the application. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

According to one expert, one in four homeless people have a pet. 

"It's surprisingly common ... some estimates are that 25 per cent of homeless people have pets, mostly dogs," said anthrozoology professor Beth Daly. 

Working at the University of Windsor, Daly has done extensive research into the relationship between humans and animals. She said homeless people and their pets tend to be "extremely" attached.

"There's a really strong, enduring bond between homeless people and their pets," said Daly. "They derive a lot of support and a sense of purpose from having their pets."

According to Daly, most homeless people tend to take care of their animals first.

"[And] because they have their pet to take care of, they take better care of themselves," said Daly.

Daly admits that pet ownership as a person who is homeless comes with a lot of barriers, including shelter and employment. 

"A lot of renting agencies, rental houses don't allow pets," said Daly. "And employment — what do you do with your animal when you have a job interview and don't have a home?"

The 24/7 nature of homeless pet ownership can cause problems, said Daly.

"When a dog is with his or her owner 100 per cent of the time, there's going to be a high level of attachment so you can understand if a dog is more protective and more reactive."

In Ontario, a dog owner's liability act mandates that when a dog has attacked a person even once, there is supposed to be an investigation. CBC has been unable to determine if an investigation took place prior to the attack on Joe McParland's dog Vici. Vici died from injuries stemming from the attack last week by a dog whose owner is homeless.

"That raises a lot of issues," said Daly, adding that renter's and home owner's insurance is what covers an owner under the liability act.

"So that's another barrier for homeless people."

With files from Windsor Morning

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