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The role of animal companions in the lives of homeless people

New research from Professor Helen Carr of Kent Law School argues that by understanding the caring relationships between homeless people and their pets we will be able to reframe how we think about homeless people

University of Kent


IMAGE: This is a homeless man with dogs. view more

Credit: Fran Urbano on a Creative Commons Licence

Published as 'Caring at the Borders of the Human: Companion animals and the homeless' in the book ReValuing Care: Cycles and Connections (Routledge), Professor Carr's research also reveals that homeless people often show a collective responsibility for the pets and, because of the close relationship between the pet and the homeless person, a collective responsibility for homelessness itself.

The story of homeless people and their animal companions is recognisable from many towns and cities worldwide. It was also recently brought to light in James Bowen's bestselling book, and its cinema adaptation, A Street Cat named Bob. Professor Carr refers to the book within her chapter, noting the similarities between the story and face-to-face research among homeless people, many of whom described their animals as life changers and life savers, with some formerly homeless people claiming that it is their pet that keeps them alive.

Professor Carr also argues that there is more to be said about the power of animals in relation to homeless people. For instance, she suggests that the donations of food provided by domiciled people to homeless people can be understood as political because it demonstrates sympathy with another species and because it suggests that we all share responsibility for the situation that homeless people find themselves in.

Professor Carr's chapter, 'Caring at the Borders of the Human: Companion animals and the homeless' can be found in ReValuing Care: Cycles and Connections, edited by Harding, Fletcher & Beasley, published by Routledge.


For further information or interview requests contact Sandy Fleming at the University of Kent Press Office. Tel: 01227 823581/01634 888879


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Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.

It has been ranked: 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2017; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2017; and 23rd in the Complete University Guide 2017.

In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.

Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.

In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities.

Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium .

The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals.

In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

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