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Homeless Youth with Pets Have Benefits, Challenges: Study

Homeless youth can benefit from owning pets but not without a few challenges, according to a new study from the University of Guelph.

Led by researchers from the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), the team found that homeless youth with pets are less likely to engage in potentially harmful behaviour, more likely to open up to veterinarians about their personal challenges and generally less depressed.

However, the team found that pets can make it difficult for their owners to obtain social services.

The study was published March 18 in the journal Anthrozoӧs. The study was featured in a Canadian Press story published in CBC News, CTV News, Global News and CityNews.

Its findings mirror what researchers had been hearing anecdotally, said Prof. Jason Coe, Population Medicine.

“Those homeless youth with pets don’t want to risk incarceration or anything that would prevent them from being with their pets, so they are less likely to abuse alcohol or use hard drugs,” said Coe. He studies the human-animal bond and communication in veterinary care.

“We also found those without pets are three times more likely to be depressed, though we have not yet determined if this is directly relatable to having a pet.”

Among major challenges, he said, “Many shelters do not allow pets, so these youth may be limited in where they can sleep.”

Read the entire feature on the University of Guelph website.

(Photo courtesy Community Veterinary Outreach)