The animals accompanying the homeless are very often the targets of prejudice. They are said to be dirty, aggressive and they are thought to be beaten. However, very often, « the first concern of a homeless person is to feed their dog, before feeding themselves« , assures Christophe Buhot, veterinary doctor and administrator of the National union of veterinary surgeons of liberal exercise (SNVEL) during a round table on veterinary medicine for all during the National veterinary day on February 6, 2020. But how to bring care for these animals?
In this case, veterinarians are often alone
In France, 14.7% of the population is considered poor and the number of homeless has not decreased since 2017. There are 200,000 people without housing and « a third party owns a pet« , advises the deputy (LREM) and veterinarian Loïc Dombreval. Initiatives have been born in order to give veterinary care to the animals of the most underprivileged. But very often, they meet with too rigid legislation. For example, »the responsibility of the veterinarian can be a brake on solidarity medicine« notes Dr Buhot. How does insurance in the event of an incident with a dog work? The question can prove to be thorny. And practicing acts in the street does not amount to a legal care in a veterinary clinic.
A lot of veterinarians do solidarity acts, sometimes free. « Between 1% and 5% of their turnover comes from the needy« , remarks the administrator of SNVEL. Practitioners donate their fees, for example, and student dispensaries are set up like the one in Lyon. »veterinarians are alone« and get little help from the community in this area. (The offense of vagrancy no longer exists, « some mayors adopt decrees banning passive grouping of dogs to indirectly target the homeless » explains Loïc Dombreval, who points out that in such a context the help of the municipality seems unlikely).
And at the national level? A proposal, issued on National Veterinary Day, seemed to appeal to the assembly: « the state can also help us« notes a veterinarian in the audience. »Why not suspend VAT for veterinary medicine for all?« , he adds before being applauded by the assembly.
« Animals therefore become an emotional comfort for these people »
Homeless, the homeless person very often no longer has any link with society. « Animals therefore become an emotional comfort for these people, remarks Christine Laconde, director general of the Samu social de Paris. They are also vectors which allow a socialization because they are subjects of conversation« While they could become an engine of reintegration, the lack of infrastructure makes them a hindrance. It is difficult to have a place of accommodation in a center with a four-legged friend although it there are exceptions, notably in Lyon and Marseille with a continuous reception of these pairs.
Discarded from society, homeless people do not accept, for the most part, to be separated from their animal, even for a place of accommodation. It is therefore easy to understand that the health of their companion is essential for their own peace of mind. « When the veterinarian treats the pet, he also treats the owner a little« , emphasizes Loïc Dombreval. The well-being of these people depends on the health of their companion and therefore on the encouragement, legislative and local, of solidarity veterinary medicine.