Homeless Dog Owners Talk About What Their Dogs Mean to Them

"I got her from a friend. I saw her, and I said, 'That doggie is going to be mine.'"

by Allegra Ringo
Jun 1 2016, 12:21pm

All photos by John Kilar

Los Angeles's Skid Row is, by many estimates, home to the nation's largest concentration of homeless people. The LA Area Chamber of Commerce estimates that somewhere between 8,000 and 11,000 people live in the roughly 50-block area that comprises the neighborhood.

While it's difficult to know how many of the homeless population of Skid Row own pets, Pets of the Homeless, a national organization that focuses on feeding and providing care for the pets of homeless people, estimates that 5 to 10 percent of homeless people nationwide have pets. If you spend a couple of hours on Skid Row, you'll see at least a few animals (mostly dogs).

Multiple studies have shown that owning a pet has a positive effect on the pet owner's mental and physical health. This is true of the population at large, regardless of their housing status, and in one study was found to be true specifically of homeless youths.

I spent a day on Skid Row, speaking to some of the residents about their dogs and what they mean to them.

Barry with his dog Daisy

VICE: Where did you get her?
Barry: I bought her from a friend. When I first got her, she had mange real bad.

How did you fix it?
I took her to a vet.

Is there a vet close by?
No. I took her to one in Gardena [about thirteen miles away].

Mike and his dog Precious

VICE: How old is she?
Mike: Eight months old. Terrier. She's pregnant right now.

How long have you had her?
Had her since she was a puppy. She does all sorts of tricks.

Sheri (left) and Billy with their dogs Mini Me and Billie Jean

VICE: Is it hard taking care of dogs while living here on Skid Row?
Sheri: It is hard because people want to feed them everything, and they want to eat everything on the ground. We want them to eat their puppy food, and people don't understand why they can't give them people food. But we're moving into an RV on the sixteenth.

Anonymous and his dog Jazzy

VICE: How long have you had her?
Anonymous: About a year.

Is it hard taking care of dogs here on Skid Row?
Nah. She's a pretty good dog.

Lovey and her dog Puda

VICE: How long have you had her?
Lovey: Only about three weeks.

Have you had dogs before?
This is my first one as an adult.

Were you nervous to raise your first dog as an adult?
I felt so scared! Like this was a baby. She's my baby.

Anonymous and her dog Cha Cha

VICE: Where did you get her?
Anonymous: I got her from a friend. I saw her, and I said, "That doggie is going to be mine."

What's Cha Cha's best quality?
She's a listener.

Al and his dog Bobby

VICE: Tell us about your dog
Al: A little girl originally owned him. The dog's father was a police dog. He grew up too quick. The little girl that originally owned him didn't want him.

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