Care homes should allow pets – they are the difference between coping and crumbling

Older people who insist on keeping their beloved animals can end up ‘intentionally homeless’ and on the street. But giving up a companion can be deeply traumatic.

Here is a nightmare of mine about the future: I’m in my late 80s, most of my friends have pegged out, I’m sick and weedy, can hardly walk, but still have my old dog, the only remaining love of my life. I’m consigned to a care home – but no dogs allowed. Then what? If I insist on keeping my dog, I’ll be called “intentionally homeless”, the council will no longer be obliged to house me and I’ll end up a vagrant. You’ll find me on a pavement outside Sainsbury’s, in a mound of duvets and rags, with the beloved dog beside me, and a bowl for donations. Do you think I’m being overdramatic and it could never happen? Wrong. The first half of the story is already happening to Bob Harvey, 87, and his dog. I don’t think they’ll end up on the streets because a petition and Just Giving fund have been set up for them, and Bob has many supporters. He used to live in a care home with his wife and dog, but his wife died two years ago and the home’s policy on animals has now changed, so the dog has to leave – by Valentine’s Day. He is suddenly a “trip hazard”. He has done the odd poo, been sick and run about the grounds barking. So he is being evicted.

You would think care homes would be accustomed to dealing with a bit of excrement, vomit and noise, but this one apparently can’t – if it’s not the human variety. And, in 2008, neither could the more than 70% of UK care homes that refused pets. In many other countries, they must take them, but not here, even though, according to the Society for Companion Animal Studies, keeping a pet can make “the difference between coping and crumbling”. Now 40% call themselves “pet-friendly”, but watch out – that could just mean the home contains a fish tank. Although they should know by now that “giving up a pet is a life-changing decision that can have deep, traumatic consequences”. Still, 140,000 must be given up annually, and thousands put down. Thank heavens for the Cinnamon Trust, the only charity that specialises in looking after older people and their pets. I’ll probably need it.

(Story source: The Guardian – February 2017)


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