Thoughts on Having a Pet While Homeless

I’ve already mentioned my dog several times in previous posts, so I thought I’d put a pic up so you can see him, and that he is indeed ginormous.

That’s my baby, Fezzik, with me on his adoption day (I’m the anonymous-esque one behind the green circle). Fez is named after André the Giant’s character in The Princess Bride, and if you know the movie, you can see why (many people, especially younger people, don’t get the reference, so I have to spell it out for them… argh!!! I’m so disappointed in my generation). He’s got that gentle giant thing going on, but you wouldn’t know it to look at him. Since this photo has been taken, he has filled out a bit – he was underweight when I adopted him.

I know that, if this blog gets off the ground and establishes some kind of reader base, I will have people questioning my responsibility and/or sanity for keeping an animal while homeless, especially such a giant breed dog. There are many that would call keeping a pet in these circumstances irresponsible and selfish, and I can understand that – where do I get off, anyway? How dare I drag a helpless animal with me into this?

In most circumstances, I would agree with you. I’m no PETA activist or anything (apologies in advance if you are, no offense meant, I just like me some steak), but I am all for animal rights, and for the right of a pet to be not only loved, but well-cared for. Many individuals convicted of animal cruelty or hoarding love their animals very much, but do not have the means or knowledge to properly care for them. I want to say this right now: I do not believe that if you are homeless, you should run out and get an animal as a companion during this difficult time, or as a means of protection. To do so for those reasons alone is selfish and wrong. Likewise, if you have a pet that predates your homelessness, you may need to look into adopting it out to someone in more stable circumstances. It is a heartbreaking thing to give up an animal that you love, but if that is the best option for its welfare, then it is absolutely necessary. You may love your dog more than anybody in the world, but that’s not going to mean a whole lot to him if he’s starving because you can’t pay for his food, never mind your own. If your situation is that dire, you need to make the choice to focus on yourself, and give him the most important gift that you can – stability, with someone who will love him as much as you. And feed him. And pay for his vet bills.

That said, there are several reasons that my situation allows for a dog. First of all, I have a source of income. I am on extended unemployment for the next 8 months, and now that I don’t have a home, I also don’t have rent or utility bills (which were the bulk of my financial responsibility). This makes it even easier to save money and use it to pay for the things that matter. I am fully able to pay for my dog’s food, treats, toys, and even vet bills, should the need arise. Secondly, I have shelter. Living out of a 30-foot trailer is a luxury that many homeless people do not have. I am not keeping my dog cramped up in a car, or on the side of the road on a leash. He has a crate as his den, and a nice wide trailer to stretch his legs in. Third, I live within walking distance of a very large park with a lake, to which I take him daily. There are 8 acres of trees and grass for him to sniff, ducks for him to look at, and nice fishermen/children to pat his head.

Finally, if my situation were ever to deteriorate and become more dire, I would immediately contact the rescue from which I adopted Fezzik and make arrangements to return him. I love my dog. He is a source of companionship and comfort right now, and he is DEFINITELY a means of protection for a woman in a vulnerable state (people give me a wide berth on the sidewalk, you don’t want to mess with a dog that looks like Fez). Pet ownership is a commitment that I take very seriously, and as long as I am fully capable of handling it, Fezzik will have a home with me. But when it comes down to it, I would send him back in a heartbeat if I couldn’t provide for his needs. So far, he has not had to endure a single day without food, water, exercise, and love. Hopefully that will always be the case.

Anyway, if you’re homeless, give careful consideration to your situation/assets/resources before you make a decision involving keeping a pet. There is one homeless shelter in California that accepts homeless men and women with pets. That is PETCO PLACE, at the PATH homeless shelter in Hollywood. And if they’re full, you and your pet are out of luck. The only other such shelter in the entire nation, to my knowledge, is located in Florida. Animals do not make the decision about who adopts them; they are at your mercy. If you are in any way unable to meet a pet’s needs, it is animal cruelty. PLEASE think about this before making a decision based on emotion and loneliness. Love is not a valid justification for stupidity or bad behavior.


  1. I just wanted to commend you for keeping your dog even though you are struggling. I don’t think it’s selfish at all. A pet is a commitment, and not to be taken lightly. That said, I don’t think anyone could call you a bad dog mom if you must one day choose to rehome him. I wish you both the best of luck.

  2. Hi Cindy,Thanks for reading and commenting; I appreciate the encouragement! I can’t agree with you enough about a pet being a serious commitment – and you’re right, if I were forced by circumstances to do so, I would absolutely choose to rehome him, if it were in his best interests.

  3. Dogs don’t mind being homeless, they fit into it naturally, they just want to be with you. Cats are more difficult but if you have a big vehicle it’s doable. There are always ways to get food for an animal. e.g. I feed my cat tuna or whatever I can buy with food stamps. dogs are much more omnivorous so that’s even easier.Although veterinarians can be crucial for a complex health problem, most of the time they are going to miss it anyway and charge you for the privilege of them waving their wand over your sick animals. most animals get well on their own and if they don’t it’s not their fault. A well informed and proactive pet owner is better than a vet, and people have kept animals for millenia without professionals so I think that a person with current knowledge can do pretty well.If you take your pet to a “rescue” organization they while undoutedly be killed. I don’t care how crazy your life is, having someone else murder your animal is not responsible. If you want to be responsible and you can’t keep your animal then at least kill it yourself so it doesn’t have to spend it’s last hours in a cage in a strange environment.Be thankful you have your dog, if you lose him then you’ll be looking back on these days with nostalgia.

  4. Lamp,I’m afraid my dog seems to very much mind being homeless, especially when I have to leave him alone in a trailer all day to go to work. I would much prefer he has what he deserves – a yard to run in – and that is what I am working towards.I am also afraid that I must disagree with you on the necessity of proper veterinary care. Although I take care to be well informed and prevent the need for vet visits, there are cases where they are necessary (this is speaking as the owner of a dog who survived Parvovirus, which has an incredibly high fatality rate, only as the result of round-the-clock veterinary care). Large breeds such as mine are prone to health problems such as hip dysplasia or, worse, bloat and torsion – which can occur without warning and kill a dog within hours if not treated immediately with surgery.I do agree with you that it is unresponsible to have someone else murder your animal. I adopted Fezzik from a “no kill” rescue which keeps its dogs in foster homes. Were I ever to get into dire straits, Karma Rescue of L.A. would take him back and see to it that he was fostered and well-cared for until he could be re-adopted. I have no current plans to do this; however, I feel that anyone who must give up an animal should look into “no kill” rescues rather than dumping off a pet at the county animal shelter.I am incredibly grateful to have my dog. I love him, have always done everything within my power to protect him, and will continue to do so.

  5. Kelli Barker says:

    Good for you!!! i am a dog owner also of a Eng. Mastiff and Great Dane,and love them with all my heart,you keep doing what your doing,Fez will thank you for it all! And good things come to those who wait!God bless you and keep you safe.

  6. You seem like an awesome person. Maybe that sounds odd since I really don’t know you at all, but it seems so evident from what you have to say and how you’ve said it.

    Pet ownership is a great responsibility, especially if that pet is a dog, and I would imagine especially if that dog is as giant as yours but there is no doubt in my mind that he is loved and you will always do right by him. I hope that you never come to a point in time where you would have to consider returning him due to finances, but if you do, continue to reach out. I bet there are many people who you have inspired, myself alike, who would try to help.

    I too am unemployed, lost my job in June. My unemployment runs out in December. I am hoping for extended benefits but I am not sure how that works right now. I have two kitties that I adopted and I love them with all my heart. I could not imagine my life without them in it. Period.

    This blog is awesome and I really hope it leads you and Fez down the path to permanent stability.

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