Take the Lead with St Mungo’s and BGT Champion Ashleigh – saving dogs from the streets

Homelessness charity St Mungo’s is asking supporters to take part in their summer fundraising challenge Take the Lead, sponsored by luxury dog food brand, Lily’s Kitchen.

St Mungo’s believes no-one should face the choice of giving up their pet, or remaining on the streets. Currently, only 7% of private landlords advertise pet-friendly properties and just 36.8% of homelessness organisations provide services for pets.

This August, a host of St Mungo’s supporters – including Ashleigh and her new dog Sully – are walking 26.2 miles with their dogs to raise money and support St Mungo’s ongoing work in rebuilding the lives of people experiencing homelessness. St Mungo’s is one of the only accommodation providers in England to accept pets in their hostels as they recognise the important emotional bond between owners and their pets.

The campaign is backed by Leading academic Jenny Stavisky who founded Vets in the Community and has studied the important bond between people experiencing homelessness and their pets. St Mungo’s wants to see more provision of pet-friendly accommodation, changes to renters legislation, and funding for veterinary and behavioural care so clients and their pets can live independently.

Participants can also enter into a competition for the chance to win a luxury Lily’s Kitchen hamper for their dog.

Talking about her support for the challenge, Ashleigh Butler said: “Pudsey was my best friend and he gave me so many amazing opportunities. We had a special bond and I know it’s the same for people who are trying to rebuild their lives and recover from homelessness. Their dogs mean the world to them. This has been a challenging year for everyone, and I’m lucky that Sully and I have each other. This is a fantastic challenge for people to get outside and spend time with their dogs. I’m proud to be supporting Take the Lead.”

 Justin and Gunner

Justin had been living in a St Mungo’s hostel for four years with his dog, 11-year-old Gunner, a Staffy cross, who he has owned since he was a puppy. In December, Justin said: “I hope to get my own set of keys to a flat for me and Gunner to live in together, just us two, that would be the icing on the cake. It will happen one day and all the pain and rubbish from my past will go away.”

Recently, that dream came true as Justin and Gunner have moved into their own private housing together with the support of St Mungo’s.

Talking about the difficulties of finding dog friendly accommodation when homeless, Justin says: “I lived with my parents but when they both passed away, I was made homeless so I spent a year and a half on the streets. Gunner helped me get through it but my goal was always to get us somewhere to stay inside. I was offered hostels before this one but they didn’t accept dogs so asked me to separate from him. There was no way I was ever going to do that because I don’t know what I’d do without him. I said I’d wait until we found somewhere that both of us could stay and that’s why I was on the streets a year and a half.”



How can your audience get involved?

 People can sign up here via the Just Giving page, link their page to Strava and get walking! Also, we are encouraging people to post their photos of the challenge to social media pages using the hashtag #MungosTakeTheLead!

When people sign up to Take the Lead, they will also receive:

  • a St Mungo’s t-shirt
  • a St Mungo’s dog lead
  • Lily’s Kitchen compostable dog waste bags to help look after the planet

And for those who hit their fundraising target, they will receive a doggy goody bag including Proper Treats from Lily’s Kitchen. The top 10 fundraisers will also receive an exclusive personalised treats tin courtesy of Lily’s Kitchen.

Petra Salva, Director of Rough Sleepers, Westminster and Migrant Services at St Mungo’s says: “I am delighted that we are hosting Take the Lead for a second year running. My dog, Nero, and I took part together last year and had a brilliant time, so I look forward to taking on the challenge with him again this year, whilst most importantly, raising money to end homelessness.

“Our client’s pets are a huge support and comfort to them, sometimes, their only companion, and it is heart breaking that whilst people are already going through such a difficult time, they may also be separated from their pets because they don’t have a solid place to call home. That is why it is so important that St Mungo’s reduce such barriers for those people in accepting pets into our hostels and helping the client on their journey to recovery.”

Jenny Stavisky, Academic and Founder of Vets in the Community says: “The team and I at University of Nottingham wanted to do this research to better understand the provision for homeless people who own pets, and to understand what owning a pet means to a homeless person. Our participants told us that having a pet meant they had a friend, a family, someone to get up, and, in some cases, stay alive for. We also found that demand for pet-friendly homelessness services hugely outstrips supply, and that many pet owners struggle to find accommodation, and would even rather sleep rough than be parted from their pets.

“Organisations such as St Mungo’s, which allow people and pets to be housed together, are incredibly important in looking after some of the most vulnerable members of our society, whether two legged or four. It would be great if more services were supported and encouraged to allow people and pets to stay together in some of the toughest times during their lives, so that they can look after each other.

Samantha Crossley, Marketing Director at Lily’s Kitchen says: “Lily’s Kitchen is delighted to support St Mungo’s again this year with their Take the Lead Challenge, highlighting the scale of homelessness in the UK today, with 4,266 rough sleepers in England alone. Like us, St Mungo’s understands that the bond between pet and pet parents is a special one, and that our pets offer us unconditional love and support through life’s ups and downs. The work St Mungo’s do to ensure that their clients are accommodated along with their pets is so important, and we’re proud to be able to help this vital campaign.”