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"She's Me": An Exploration of Pet Ownership from the Perspective of People Who Are Homeless

By Lana Parker, Leonie Boland, Alison Warren

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For many people who experience homelessness, having a pet is an important part of their lives. Although the benefit and meaning of pet ownership has been well recognized in the literature, few studies have explored its meaning from the perspectives of individuals who are homeless. This qualitative study explored the meaning of pet ownership from the perspectives of three men who previously or currently owned a pet while experiencing homelessness. In line with the chosen methodology, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), semi-structured, in- depth interviews explored the phenomena of pet ownership. This paper is based on one of three themes from the research: human- animal bond. Findings within this theme suggest that pet ownership is a valued activity, with participants demonstrating reference to the emotional support the animals provided. Participants highlighted the reliable nature of their pets in comparison to the breakdown of previous human relationships and described the relationships as being formed out of mutual respect. Language used throughout the interviews reflected the perceived family bond participants had with their pets. From this research it is evident that pet ownership may enhance emotional well-being and also provide an important relationship for individuals experiencing homelessness. Therefore there is merit in homelessness service providers developing strategies and policies to enable persons accessing their services to keep their pets close by.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2020
Publication Title People and Animals: The International Journal of Research and Practice
Volume 3
Issue 1
Pages 13
ISBN/ISSN 2575-9078
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. homelessness
  3. Human-animal bond
  4. open access
  5. peer-reviewed
  6. Pets and companion animals
  7. Well-being
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed