Julián Castro. Screenshot of Zoom.

A national nonprofit is aiming to raise awareness on the challenges pet owners face while experiencing homelessness. 

My Dog is My Home hosted its second annual co-sheltering conference earlier this month and kicked off with a keynote speech from Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and the former head of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama. 

“It’s urgent that our housing advocates and our advocates for animal welfare work together to help improve the quality of life of human beings and also of animals,” Castro said at the conference. 

A variety of topics were covered at the conference including pet inclusivity during disasters, trauma-informed services, animal health and partnering with faith communities. 

According to a report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness and PetSmart Charities, approximately 10% of people experiencing homelessness have an emotional support or companion animal. Most emergency shelters do not accept pets, thus many can’t or don’t seek out services. 

“The human-animal bond is so strong that many people experiencing homelessness will not live separated from their animal,” said Kristi Schulenberg, the director of the center for capacity building at the alliance. “By not adopting low-barrier animal policies, communities missed an opportunity to leverage … engagement that can result in much-needed services and housing for both.”