Mental health problems, isolation and poverty: meet the charity tackling these issues by removing the barriers to pet ownership.

National pet charity, Blue Cross has launched a report examining the devastating impact poverty, mental health problems and loneliness has on society and how pet ownership is the beneficial link in the chain for so many people. Live streaming available here.

Experts on pet welfare, mental health, poverty and loneliness will all meet on Thursday 28th November for a Blue Cross conference to address how society can benefit from pet ownership and animal interactions and to call for any future government to recognise the significant positive impact animals can have on people’s lives. The charity would like to see further scientific research undertaken in this area to enable the introduction of more evidence-based policies

Animal-assistance Therapy (AAT) is genuinely changing people’s lives and helping to improve their mental health. Blue Cross wishes to see The Department of Health undertake a detailed comprehensive review into the use of AAT for mental health patients in the UK to help share best practice and identify the areas where it can be most effective.

Blue Cross aims to lead on working with other organisations to reach those in crisis and to promote the benefits of pet ownership for those struggling with mental health challenges. The charity recommends Community Mental Health teams recognise a service user’s relationship with their pet in any psychological and psychiatric assessments and this is reflected in any care or crisis plan. (See case study of Amanda and jasmine in NTE)

The prevalence of loneliness across society is increasing.  Countless numbers of older people are living in almost complete isolation and growing numbers of young people are feeling increasingly disconnected. Blue Cross wishes to see more scientific research conducted on the health and wellbeing benefits of pet ownership on alleviating loneliness.

The charity continues its work with care home outreach and recommends that housing and care home providers develop pet friendly policies, provide training for staff and share best practice. 90% of survey recipients over 65 years old wanted a pet policy in place at care homes but 68% had no plans in place for their pet should they need to go into a care home. (See Mr Parsons and Badger case study in NTE and stories from Anchor Handover residential homes)

Blue Cross will be piloting schemes in 2020 to develop closer community links in areas of need and to work with organisations who can help connect those living in isolation with pet support schemes.

The benefits of pet ownership are universal regardless of income, however there are still significant barriers which make it more difficult for people living on a lower income to afford their pet.

A recent Blue Cross survey of low income pet owners found that 70% would borrow money to cover emergency vet costs and that around 60% of people felt there wasn’t enough support available. More provision is clearly needed; with around 66% of owners saying they would use a pet food bank in their area if one existed, Blue Cross is developing programmes to increase these services to those in need. (C)

For over a hundred years, Blue Cross has supported pet owners to help them afford the veterinary care their animal requires. Blue Cross wants to ensure that pet ownership should not be a privilege of the wealthy and will continue to develop services and partnerships that can help to put the right support in place for when pet owners need it most.

Steve Goody, COO and Deputy Chief Executive Blue Cross, said:It is our charity’s aim to demonstrate how important and life-enhancing pets are to people, especially those living in vulnerable and challenging situations. With these benefits quite literally saving lives, we are committed to breaking down the barriers that are preventing those in need enjoying the rewards pet ownership can bring. Every day we see people using our services that would be bereft and alone without their animal companion. That is why Blue Cross are dedicated to being a voice for both pets and people and working to ensure the benefits of pet ownership are embedded across all areas of society. “

For a copy of the report and conference programme contact Sarah.Dickinson@bluecross.org.uk / Press@bluecross.org.uk