A new national pet friendly hostel accreditation scheme has been launched, with the first hostel being awarded accreditation today in Hemel Hempstead.
The StreetVet Accredited Hostel Scheme – which will roll out nationwide – will enable hostels to accept multiple residents with their pets by offering free, accessible, veterinary care, as well as support for hostel managers and staff to adopt and implement positive pet policies.
Currently many people face the impossible choice between a roof over their heads of giving up on their beloved pet.
In the UK, one in ten people experiencing homelessness has a pet (around 32,000 people) and, whilst some hostels accept pets, the vast majority do not. Those that do accept pets may also only accept one pet for the entire property.
The accreditation scheme ensures that hostels are well-equipped to proactively support pet-owning residents, including: having a variety of health, hygiene and safety policies in place; e-training hostel team members to support the policies and the people and pets they are accommodating, and providing pet owners with access to vet care including telemedicine, free provision of pet essentials, transport to vet practices when needed and emergency kennelling should the pet owner be taken ill.
The charity was able to launch the scheme after winning funding from Purina’s BetterwithPets prize – the accreditation scheme was chosen as the winner from entries across Europe.
StreetVet co-founder and vet Jade Statt says: “Under current regulations, if people turn down housing due to “no pets” clauses, they are told they are making themselves “intentionally homeless” and are refused further housing assistance. Any pet lover will understand that choosing between a roof over your head and the company of your beloved pet is no choice at all. Currently, one of the many complex reasons that people remain homeless is because there are not enough hostels that can safely accommodate them and their pet. Our hope is that in setting up the StreetVet Accredited Hostel Scheme, fewer people will have to make this impossible choice. Access to pet-friendly hostels is their first step towards independent housing. With homelessness on the rise due to the economic impact of COVID-19, it was important to us to launch this scheme before Christmas, as winter sets in.”
Co-founder Sam Joseph added: “We hope this scheme will enable hostels that have previously not been pet friendly to start welcoming pet-owning residents.”
StreetVet has seen a huge increase in people seeking their services during 2020, with a 50% increase in clients in Bournemouth during lockdown alone.
StreetVet ambassador, the presenter, writer, broadcaster and animal-lover Clare Balding says: “This is a simple idea that will make an absolutely huge difference to pet owners experiencing homelessness and is a brilliant extension of StreetVet’s excellent work treating pets on the streets. The charity has made it as simple and low cost as possible for hostels to become accredited, helping keep people and their pets together. Pets are more than animals, they are our family and friends. No pet lover would want to be separated from their pet, especially when going through a very difficult time in their life.”
The pet charity Blue Cross supported StreetVet in generating educational content for the scheme. Tracy Genever, Head of Education Services, Blue Cross, says: “A common barrier to hostels becoming pet friendly is that their staff are not confident supporting pet-owning residents. This scheme tackles that problem at its root by providing hostel staff training as well as wrap-around veterinary support.”
Sean Fitzgerald, manager of The Elms, the first StreetVet pet-friendly accredited hostel says: “We wanted to be part of this scheme because we see the benefits pets bring their owners every day with our residents. The accreditation process is thorough but it’s also simple, with all the support you need provided by StreetVet. The scheme helped us improve our pet policies and we know StreetVet will be there whenever we need them in an emergency. We would encourage as many hostels as possible to get involved.”
It is StreetVet’s hope that local community groups, schools and even individuals will fundraise for local hostels to join the scheme by helping to cover the annual accreditation fee. Hostels interested in learning about the scheme are invited to contact StreetVet (email@example.com).
Bernard Meunier, Purina EMENA chief executive said: “We created the BetterwithPets Prize to support the innovators who harness the power of the pet-human bond in communities across Europe, Middle East and North Africa.
“In this second edition, we awarded StreetVet £40,000 with a strong belief in Jade and the hope that our financial help and business expertise could accelerate her plans to create the first ever pet friendly hostel accreditation scheme. This great achievement demonstrates how a programme built on deep love for pets and their owners, and belief in the power of the pet-human bond, can deliver positive change for both individuals and communities.”
Whilst the hostel accreditation scheme will make a huge difference to people and their pets, it’s only the first step to helping pet owners experiencing homelessness access accommodation.
StreetVet co-founder Sam Joseph explains: “Once people have been temporarily housed with pets, they still face hurdles to access permanent accommodation, due to many landlords banning pets. For this reason, StreetVet is also supporting Jasmine’s Law and has shared our policies and procedures in the hope they can also be applied to permanent rented accommodation. Our charity’s purpose is to protect the human-animal bond and keep our clients and their pets together.”
Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, who introduced the Jasmine’s Law legislation to Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill explains: “Responsible pet owners are forced to give up beloved pets if they need to move and are unable to find an affordable place to rent where their pet is also allowed, while homeless pet owners are faced with the choice of giving up their pet or staying on the streets. “No pets” policies can have a terrible impact on individuals and families. More often than not, these policies are completely unnecessary.”
To find out more information about StreetVet and the hostel scheme, visit https://www.streetvet.org.uk