TWO charities have joined forces to ensure homeless dog owners can stay with their pets.

Dogs Trust and Simon Community Scotland have launched a brand-new initiative to increase dog friendly accommodation.

Many emergency and temporary accommodation providers do not accept dogs, leaving owners unable to access the housing and support they and their dogs need – unless they make the heart-breaking decision to give up their pets.

So now the two organisations have launched a partnership to tackle the issue, starting with a unique role: ‘Pets and Housing Development and Engagement Officer’.

It is hoped that this role, jointly funded by both charities, will mean fewer dog owners in Scotland have to make the difficult choice between a safe place to sleep and their beloved pet.

Cat Birt, who has been appointed into the role, will be working with accommodation providers to highlight the benefits of the human-animal bond and the importance of keeping people and their pets together.

She said: “The latest figures suggest there are up to 13,000 people in Scotland who are homeless at any one time, which includes people who are rough sleeping, sofa surfing or living in a vehicle.

"A further 11,665 families live in temporary accommodation.

Glasgow Times:

"Some of these people will have dogs or other pets but sadly the majority of accommodation options available to them do not accept companion animals.

"There are so many positives and benefits to keeping people with their pets, and that’s what my role has been created to explore, progress and ultimately try and change the tale for vulnerable people and their beloved dogs.

“Over the next 12 months, I’ll be working closely with accommodation and housing providers, staff and service users on how being inclusive of dog owners and their companion dogs can have wider benefits."

Simon Community Scotland and Dogs Trust have a strong track record of joint working.

Last year, Dogs Trust contributed to Simon Community’s Paws for Thought guidance, which gave advice to organisations who might otherwise be wary or unsure of how to respond to people who are homeless, when accompanied by their pet dog.

The report and recommendations gained the support of Scottish Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart MSP.

Mr Stewart said: "Pets offer comfort, stability and much-needed companionship for someone facing homelessness.

"Being forced to choose between their pets and a safe place to live is a choice no one should have to make.

"That’s why I’m glad to see this job being created by the Simon Community and Dogs Trust.

"It will help set out why pets matter and provide practical steps to support social landlords in helping people experiencing homelessness.

"Respecting people’s meaningful and important relationships with their pets is an important element of ending homelessness in Scotland.”

Dogs Trust has supported Simon Community Scotland to make nine of its accommodation services dog-friendly.

The charity already works with 25 homelessness organisations and 11 vet practices through their free veterinary entitlement card scheme in eight towns and cities across Scotland.

Hugh Hill, of the Simon Community, said: "We’ve seen first-hand that for anyone experiencing any sort of housing crisis their dog will often be their only companion and source of love and support.

"That’s why we’ve already taken steps to make our services dog-friendly, but there’s much more work to be done for us as a charity, and for the sector as a whole."