Not-for–profit pet washing service promotes better social understanding
Ruff Sleepers is a new pet washing service for homeless people, but there’s more to it than simply washing dogs. By helping the homeless look after their dogs, it will go a long way towards fostering and promoting a more understanding and connected society.
“Homeless people often face the heartbreaking choice between accommodation or their pet because shelters and public and private housing often cannot accommodate their best – and possible only – friend,” explains co-founder Dr Bronwen Dalton.
An Associate Professor at UTS and the Director of the UTS Business School’s Masters of Not–For–Profit and Social Enterprise Program, Dr Dalton says the bond between homeless people and their pets can be so strong that they will decline to be housed if it means giving up their dogs.
“Also there is evidence that keeping a pet may be beneficial for those who are homeless. Research suggests that companion animal ownership is effective at reducing loneliness and providing unconditional love,” she says.
"There is even research indicating that some animal-owning homeless people don’t engage in substance abuse or high-risk behaviour because of a sense of responsibility for their companions."
Other research has identified these special relationships as a source of protection for homeless people, and as a means of socially connecting with the public. It is also a pathway to an equal, respectful and positive interaction with homeless people: a common love for dogs can break down social barriers.
Dr Dalton co-founded Ruff Sleepers with UTS Not-For-Profit Program students Tully Rosen and Linda Castellazzi.
Ruff Sleepers volunteers hold their grooming sessions for “dogs on the street” alongside the monthly volunteer vet service Pets in the Park (PITP) in the grounds of St John’s Anglican Church in Darlinghurst, Sydney. On the last Sunday of each month. It is now looking for sponsors to help it continue its monthly grooming services and to start an emergency treatment fund for PITP clients. “Homeless people's pets can get seriously hurt,” Dr Dalton says. “This fund would ensure that, no matter what your situation in life, your best friend can get life-saving treatment if needed.” Ruff Sleepers also advocates for:
- More housing options for homeless pet owners
- The establishment of a veterinary hospital to services disadvantaged pet owners
- Greater awareness of the value of pet ownership for mental and physical health and well-being, particularly among those facing difficult times
* Monies raised for the Ruff Sleepers project will be held in a UTS fundraising account to ensure volunteers are covered by UTS Insurance and that the organisation identified in the campaign receives the funds (to comply with the Trade Practices Act). 70 per cent of the funds will be donated to Pets in the Park after reaching a minimum of $1000, with 30 per cent of funds held by Ruff Sleepers to build a reserve to cover operational costs and advocacy activities. Advocacy will be for: More housing options for homeless pet owners; the establishment of a veterinary hospital to services disadvantaged pet owners; greater awareness of the value of pet ownership for mental and physical health and well-being, particularly among those facing difficult times.