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Helping homeless hounds

Issue: 29/12/2017

by Alice Rycroft

Dogs On The Street (DOTS), is a voluntary-led charity launched to help the homeless and their much loved pets. 
They aim to relive the pressures of owning a dog by providing rough-sleepers with the support and advice they need. 
Michelle Clark, founder of the DOTS charity, has been taking her team to the streets to serve the homeless and their dogs since 2012. In March this year, thanks to the amazing support of their sponsors, they could finally open their very first Doggy Station on The Strand in London. 
Michelle told the Metro: "I want the public to know that to a homeless dog owner, their dog is their world. They will quite often put the needs of the dog before their own, they love and care for them that much."
Since March, Michelle and her team have expanded their charity, successfully opening several more Doggy Stations in Westminster, Camden, Shoreditch, East and North London. 
At the Doggy Stations, owners receive free veterinary examinations, advice and treatment. Every dog they're introduced to is registered and receives a dog tag with their own unique number and DOTS details. 
Living on the streets can prove to be a hazardous place for a dog's health and DOTS regularly encounter problems ranging from sore-paws and infections to heart disease and arthritis. Their many sponsors and donations allow them to pay for any operations that need performing, medication that needs administrating over long periods of time and treatment such as Hydrotherapy.  
Owners can also receive leads, collars, warm coats and blankets for their dogs, but most importantly, wet and dry dog food. 
DOTS website includes a page for lost dogs, or dogs that have been stolen from their owners. In 2016, 1,774 dog thefts took place, a figure that has risen 19% since 2014, which equates to five dogs being stolen every day. Sadly, only one out of every five is ever returned. 
The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen from 1,768 in 2010, to a whopping 4,134 in 2016. That's an increase of 134% and cities around the country are having to cope with this problem.
No survey has yet been done to discover how many of the homeless also have a dog to care for. 
Dogs provide companionship to people who are sleeping rough. They're loyal friends who are also non-judgmental towards their owners, even providing protection from the dangers of the streets. 
DOTS aren't alone there are are also organisations like Street Vet who are there to help the homeless and their dogs. Nearly a quarter of Britain's homeless population sleep rough in London every year and many of them will also have a dog to care for. On a night out in 2016 Street Vet founder, Jade Statt, saw first hand how bad homeless dogs can suffer on the streets. 
It was there she met another vet called Sam Joseph who was trying to help in the same way. They came together and started Street Vet.  Jade said: 'The idea of Street Vet is to give the dogs a health check. Anything I can do in a regular consultation, I can do on the street and if further treatment is needed we can find a surgery to facilitate.'
Since Street Vet was set up at the start of this year 34 more nurses and vets have joined the charity and have helped over 80 animals over the city. 
And London isn't the only city who has charities to help homeless dogs and their owners. Dogs Trust set up The Hope Project in 1995. Their original outreach clinic was in North London and was only open once a month. However, it soon became clear of just how much help was needed and by 2017 the Hope Project is now running in 110 towns and cities across Britain.

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