Homeless man and his dog sit outside in the rain
Still taken from Mayhew's new documentary

A new documentary series aims to expose the reality homeless pet owners face every day on British streets.

Leading animal welfare charity Mayhew has partnered with internationally acclaimed production company Iconoclast to challenge public perceptions with several short films, documenting the lives of three homeless men and their dogs.

Whilst many will understand the strong bond these pairs have, others may judge those who struggle financially and also keep an animal. In a study conducted this year, 86% of the general London public agree that ‘pets can be just as much a companion as another person can’, but over 60% agree that ‘those can’t support themselves financially are being irresponsible if they own a pet’.

Homeless dog lying down
Still taken from Mayhew’s new documentary

Mayhew has long since recognised the benefits in owning and interacting with animals and has been a lifeline for homeless people and animals since 2000. They want to inspire support and empathy from the public and change the way homeless pet owners are viewed.

The charity says it is aware of dogs that have been unwillingly relinquished to shelters and rehoming centres. In some cases, homeless people will turn down medical care, rehab opportunities and housing offers as they are worried about what would happen to their animals.

This new documentary aims to challenge the judgement these owners face. Inspired by the charity’s ethos, Iconoclast, creative director Dominic Goldman and film director Roland Kennedy were keen to come on board and help Mayhew tell the stories on three homeless clients the charity has supported over the past 10 years – Gulbar, Wully and Shaun.

Series synopsis

  • Episode 1 – “The fight of their lives” follows Gulbar and Lucky after a life changing road accident, and reveals the incredibly close supportive relationship that neither human nor animal could live without.

  • Episode 2 – “Love versus addiction” tells the story of how Azzy the dog inspired owner Wully to seek help for his alcohol addiction and how Mayhew was able to support them on this journey.

  • Episode 3 – “The breath of life” focuses on how COPD sufferer Shaun finds comfort and relief in his dog Toffee, who knows exactly how to calm him down during and after an attack.

National crisis

Stats taken from an online survey show that two-thirds of Londoners agree that animal welfare issues and social issues are linked. Mayhew is focusing on helping prevent animals ending up in the shelter environment when they have a loving owner who is just in need of a helping hand.

For the past decade, their Animal Welfare Officers have been building close and trusting relationships with homeless people and their dogs, and work to secure foster care to look after animals whilst their owners get back on their feet.

Their on-site vet clinic also provides free general health checks and preventative treatments such as neutering, and flea and worm treatments, as well as providing collars, tags, jackets, coats, waste bags and food.

Homeless man and his dog
Still taken from Mayhew’s new documentary

Mayhew CEO, Caroline Yates, says, “No matter how difficult a situation may be, Mayhew are always on hand to help and advise. Dogs do not judge their owners, so neither do we.

“By making this documentary with Iconoclast, we want to give homeless people a platform to share the bond, the hardship, the protection and the love, in their own words.”

The three documentaries will be shared across social media today (Tuesday 18 December) and Facebook will also be supporting the launch so they can reach a wider audience with this campaign.

Watch the films and find out how you too can support Mayhew at themayhew.org/homeless


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