Homeless NYC pet owners stuck on streets as shelter bill stagnates

April Saccoccio sat begging for cash and pet food close to Union Sq. on a sweltering 95-degree day, holding again tears as her pup Snoopy lapped up water from a bowl. 

Snoopy is one among two canines Saccoccio shares with accomplice Alex Vigorous. The pair, and their four-legged buddies, spent three years dwelling on the streets of New York.

“They’re the one issues that maintain us going,” stated Saccoccio. “We put them first; it’s the canines first, then it’s me and him.”

Going to shelters was a nonstarter for Saccoccio, 38, and Vigorous, 34, as a result of most received’t settle for pets.

“They needed us to eliminate our canines, and separate us into single shelters,” Vigorous advised The Put up.

Homeless pet homeowners have lengthy been ready for the Metropolis Council to cross laws permitting them to convey their four-legged buddies into the almost 450 shelters across the 5 boroughs.

The payments would require town to provide you with a plan for pet homeowners on the road and different residents in search of shelter to maneuver into locations that will accommodate pets, and maintain information of every pet proprietor and pet, in line with Metropolis Councilman Steve Levine (D-Brooklyn), the top sponsor of the invoice.

April Saccoccio, 38, gets a kiss from Buddy with Snoopy in her arms in Riverside Park.
April Saccoccio will get a kiss from Buddy with Snoopy in her arms in Riverside Park.
Helayne Seidman for NY Put up

“We had been engaged on passing it proper earlier than COVID-19 began, and that type of derailed it,” he advised The Put up. 

A 2019 NYU study discovered that shelters refusing to take pets is among the main causes the homeless keep on the streets. Levin estimated there are between 8,000 and 20,000 homeless pet homeowners within the metropolis.

That’s the case for Vigorous and Saccoccio, who met on the streets with their animals and had been taking shelter beneath the FDR bridge close to StuyTown in Manhattan once they spoke to The Put up final month.

Vigorous ended up on the streets in 2019, after he was hit by a bus and harm. The ensuing shoulder and neck accidents left him unable to work as a masonry apprentice. Saccoccio was left homeless after fleeing an abusive relationship, she stated.

pets homeless
Shelters are extra welcoming of animals if they’re designated emotional assist pets.
Helayne Seidman for NY Put up

The pair has seen violence whereas out on the streets, and struggled with the indignity of getting to depend on strangers to feed themselves, and their canines. However giving up the love and safety that Snoopy and Buddy provide them is unthinkable, Saccoccio stated.

“I don’t assume we might have made it this far if it wasn’t for the canines,” she stated. “They encourage you to maintain going, they’re at all times there and are every part we’d like.”

The state of affairs is very dire for pet homeowners attempting to flee from home violence, who are sometimes reluctant to go away for a shelter because of anti-pet guidelines, Levin stated.

“There’s all kinds of conditions, like the place someone will proceed to dwell with their abuser in the event that they don’t need to surrender their pet, particularly if the kids are connected,” Levin advised The Put up. “So there’s an actual subject by way of hampering folks’s potential to seek out protected and respectable shelter.”

Deedra Cheatham, the director of constituent companies for Councilman Levin who has advocated for the homeless pets invoice, is aware of properly how vital pets might be for survival — and what a roadblock they are often to getting assist.

Alex Lively,34, and April Saccoccio
The police broke up Saccoccio and Vigorous’s encampment June 30.
Helayne Seidman for NY Put up

Cheatham was attempting to flee an abusive relationship in 2017, and determined to get herself, her 13-year-old daughter and toddler son right into a home violence shelter.

However the then-2-year-old couldn’t depart the household’s pet turtle behind, she recalled.

The reptile had been a present from the boy’s uncle, she recalled, a “protected pet” to which the kid had grow to be emotionally connected.

“That turtle helped us via a variety of issues,” Cheatham stated. “For emotional causes, there was no method we might have been capable of depart our pet behind.”

Cheatham at the moment works alongside the City Sources Institute, and their People and Animals Living Safely (PALS) shelter, which let Cheatham convey her turtle into their pet-friendly shelter facility. It’s one among simply seven within the metropolis which accommodate pets.

Buddy homeless pet
Buddy and his homeowners Saccoccio and Vigorous have now discovered transitional housing.
Helayne Seidman for NY Put up

Cheatham is assured the push to make metropolis shelters pro-pet is gaining momentum. 

“We’re in search of some assist throughout the Metropolis Council,” Cheatham advised The Put up. “We are attempting to introduce it once more throughout the subsequent couple of weeks.”

Whereas service and emotional assist animals are already allowed in metropolis shelters, pets with out that designation often get the boot, in line with the Coalition for the Homeless group.

The police broke up Saccoccio and Vigorous’s encampment June 30. Only a day later, with the assistance of a DHS case employee, they had been capable of finding transitional housing — and produce Snoopy and Buddy with them, they stated.

In the meantime, they’ve utilized for emotional assist standing for his or her canines, as they wait to see if the regulation modifications. 

“We lastly have a route to go,” Vigorous stated, as he let Buddy lick his face. “The wheels are beginning to flip for what we now have been striving for the previous couple of years now.” | Homeless NYC pet homeowners caught on streets as shelter invoice stagnates


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