The UK’s largest dog welfare charity is to deliver nearly 2,000 care hampers to pets belonging to the homeless.
Members of Dogs Trust are to offer canine hampers of collars, leads, coats, treats and toys to dogs and their owners through their Together Through Homelessness scheme.
The festive service has been running for more than 30 years, and, as well as Christmas gifts, provides free veterinary treatment to dogs whose owners are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
This year, the initiative will deliver almost 2,000 Christmas parcels to dogs and their owners at more than 215 homelessness services across the UK.
Some of the services in Kent which have benefited from Dogs Trust’s Together Through Homelessness scheme include Swale council, Porchlight in Margate, Catching Lives in Canterbury and The Quays in Sittingbourne.
Outreach support worker at Swale council, Tia Rees, said: "For our clients with dogs, their pooches tend to be their key support network.
"They often feel that they can't give them everything that they need, so to be able to give their dogs something special at Christmas will make our clients so happy, as well as the dogs.
"We also tend to see our clients go without to give their dogs something, so by removing this stress of giving their dogs something at Christmas, our clients can relax and hopefully give themselves a little something too.”
As well as distributing Christmas hampers and offering free veterinary treatments, the scheme supports homelessness services to accept clients with dogs and helps them put practical guidelines in place.
The project also provides starter packs of dog items to help new dogs feel welcome at such places.
It comes after the charity declared an 82% rise in inquiries, as Crisis Homelessness Monitor 2023 shows homelessness as being on the rise in the UK.
Dogs Trust's Together Through Homelessness team leader, Megan Evans, added: “Everyone knows the bond between a dog and its owner is a strong one, but for people experiencing homelessness, the bond is often unbreakable.
"Christmas can be an especially difficult and lonely time for people in housing crisis, but the company of a canine friend can often help to ease some of this loneliness.
“However, thanks to the generosity of Dogs Trust supporters, this year we’ll spread a little bit of Christmas cheer and help almost 2,000 dogs celebrate Christmas with their best friends.
"Not only that, but we will be able to continue to support them into the new year and beyond so more dogs can stay with their owners, regardless of their housing situation."