Homeless, companion animals, street-involved, youth, young adults


In Canada, approximately 150,000 youth are homeless on any given night, and many have companion animals. Through a series of semi-structured interviews, this qualitative study explored the issues and effects of companion animal ownership among street-involved youth from the perspective of the youth themselves. "Pet before self" was the substantive theme, with first level sub-themes of "physical" and "emotional" effects. Previously unidentified findings include benefits of having a companion animal, such as creating structure and routine and decreasing use of drugs. Loss of the companion animal was a negative effect. Youth consistently reported making choices to stay with their animal regardless of liabilities for their own health or success. Service providers should understand and support the significant human-animal bond that can exist for these homeless youth.

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