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Without a home but not without a companion: an ethnographic study

By Catherine M. Riley

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This study aims to explore the personal perspective of people who are homeless and their pet companions. This study examines the benefits and challenges of the homeless pet owner in Sacramento, CA. The study’s purpose is to discuss the benefits and challenges as well as further explore the population and provide understanding of the target population. The study also aims to address the lack of research on this topic and population and addresses the gap in literature. This study is an ethnographic, qualitative design. This study is also an exploratory design. The study collected primary data from 30 participants at the Mercer Veterinary Clinic located on the site of Loaves and Fishes in Sacramento, California. The participants were asked open ended questions using an interview guide. Direct quotes were also taken from the participants and added to the results. Several hypothesis were created and most were generally confirmed from the data collected. Specific hypotheses that were confirmed were the challenges of finding housing and shelter experienced by individuals who are currently homeless and own a pet. In addition to that hypothesis, the hypothesis that homeless pet owners experience companionship and an element of safety from having a pet were also confirmed by the data collected. The challenges that were found by the interviews appeared to be related to policy and procedure of agencies that provide resources for the homeless. There are many implications for social work regarding this research. In regards to the homeless pet owner community, there are many benefits to understanding the culture when working in macro or micro social work. On a macro level, the policies need to be changed regarding access to resources. This research may assist social workers working with the population on a micro level as this is a growing population that appears to require assistance from the field of social work


Katie Carroll

Date 2015
Pages 67
Publisher California State University Sacramento
Department Social Work
Degree Master of Social Work
Language English
University California State University Sacramento
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. animal companionship
  2. Animal roles
  3. Cats
  4. Dogs
  5. homelessness
  6. Homeless pets
  7. Mammals
  8. Pet owners.
  9. Pet ownership
  10. Pets and companion animals
  11. Social Work