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San Francisco Gives Dogs to Panhandlers

Written by Michelle Kretzer | July 17, 2012

Animal advocates are up in arms over San Francisco’s new plan for keeping panhandlers off the streets. The city wants to pay panhandlers who are staying in publicly funded housing $75 per week to foster “problem” dogs from San Francisco’s animal shelter. But as a letter that PETA sent to Mayor Edward M. Lee points out, “Handing over troubled animals to troubled people will save neither, and it places both at risk of injury, further trauma, and a bad end.”

Franco Folini|cc by2.0 

Many homeless people are battling substance-abuse or mental-health issues. If they are unable to adequately meet their own needs, the last thing the city should do is saddle them with the needs of another individual. And while the organizers of the WOOF program (which stands for Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos) say that the panhandlers will be screened to weed out anyone who is still living on the streets or is severely mentally ill (emphasis added), they say nothing about the foster caregivers’ lack of experience dealing with traumatized dogs with special needs who are “rowdy, hyper or too shy to interact with humans.” The last thing the city’s most vulnerable dogs need is to be put in a precarious situation and exposed to improper, counterproductive, or (heaven forbid) cruel training methods, which could result in their being bounced from one foster home to another and make their behavior problems worse, not better.

PETA has offered to give San Francisco $10,000—the amount of the private grant that the city received to start the program—if it would instead pay panhandlers to perform any other service for the city, such as leafleting for spaying and neutering

Please e-mail Mayor Edward M. Lee and ask him to place the city’s indigent population in jobs that won’t risk hurting them or dogs.

Commenting is closed.
  • Rachel says:

    Almost everyone in this comment section read this article and nothing more and has decided to side with peta..why? Because you read an article written by peta, it’s more than a little bit bias. After looking into both sides I think its a great idea. The dogs are fostered by people who are no longer living on the streets. Let me repeat that, they are not living on the streets. In many ways they are better cared for than some dogs in the suburbs because these people understand what it’s like to be homeless and have empathy for the dog, while many dogs in suburbs do not get the proper attention they need simply because their family gets busy with school and work and other things. And it’s not problem dogs places with problem people, They screen through people and match them with the dog they think will fit best. It’s just like in prison where there are programs for inmates to train dogs and sometimes horses, only the well behaved inmates who they think will actually succeed in the program are selected. Peta is simply using statistics that say a lot of homeless people struggle with mental illness or addiction to jump to the conclusion that the dogs will be living with mentally ill drug addicts who won’t take care of them, which is simply an incorrect assumption. As you can see in this video, the people take classes to learn not only how to care for their dog, but also themselves. It’s a win win honestly.

  • Jackie says:

    This is very similar to the program that allows inmates to rehabilitate and train dogs that were deemed ‘unadoptable’. Allowing the inmates to care for, train, and live with a dog had positive impacts on both the animal and the human involved. The dogs were socialized and trained to a level which allowed them to become adoptable, while the inmates were able to learn a new skill (dog training). This program would give homeless a means towards gainful employment, and give dogs that are difficult to adopt, a chance to settle down and become more adoptable.

  • Catherine says:

    Read the article, folks. Those who are matched will not be living on the streets, and will be supported in this enterprise. As someone who has recovered from a serious mental illness, I think this is a great idea. Caring for an animal was a big part of my recovery (in my case, my relationship with my lovely cat Oreo). People *do* recover and I think there is enough discrimination against people recovering from addictions and mental illness out there.

  • Amber says:

    I agree that giving dogs to panhandlers is a bad idea. I always feel bad when I see homeless people with pets. How can they possibly afford to care for a pet?

  • Awayneramsey says:

    San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty has never lived in a substandard supportive housing building as a poor low-wage earner, neither as a disfranchised individual with others who are members of the burgeoning sub-culture of self-harming persons who are entitled to Housing First preferences. Two sub-classes of this sub-culture are drunks and drug addicts. These alone are devastating quality of life impaired classes with which to share communal housing. Imagine walking into a community toilet and twice weekly stepping into another’s urine, or the new Venetian blind, that is continually ripped from the window that provides privacy and light filtering when the sun is bright outside, or the waste receptacle that is continually stolen or thrown out the toilet window, or the broken crack pipe shard in the track of the shower window or on the very soiled tiled floor that the non-profit B-corporation janitor has no time to maintain, the pot, crack, meth and tobacco smokes that penetrate walls, floors and ceilings and that come into the window usually at about 4:00 a.m. while you try to sleep but it awakens you, or the blood on the floors and walls of either the toilet or the shower, the filth and grease that those who share the community kitchen refuse to clean for others who use this during or after they finish, or to awaken to your door that comes crashing in at 5:45 a.m. while you sleep before a man standing just outside threatens you with future physical harm, ad infinitum. Enter “dog.” If humans are too out-of-it to do things pertinent to human “activities of daily living” do sane non-self-destructive Americans, San Franciscans, individuals imagine that self-destructive humans will care for dogs? To protect others from being bitten by the dog? In the inadequate confines of a supportive housing slum? My answer is this, dogs need freedom to run in wide open spaces and should not be leashed. If you cannot care for yourself and get-along civilly with others who share the communal housing; or if you do not own or rent more than an acre of land where a dog can frolic, then you should not consider having a dog. There are always the more shocking events such as the Diane Whipple mauling in a San Francisco apartment building a few years ago by two Presa Canario dogs. She lived in far better housing than supportive housing. She’s dead.

  • sfdoglover says:

    Big fail, Bevan Dufty. Anyone who knows what it takes to properly care for a dog would NEVER propose, much less agree to, this insane idea. I shudder to think of my sweet dog being given to someone who may be mentally unstable and/or have a history of addiction or inability to care for themselves and hold a job. Go back to the drawing board, SF. You’re better than this.

  • Jack M. says:

    PETA is correct. why would we give people with a track record of not being capable of caring for themselves another living being to care for? Have the officials who think this is a good idea ever cared for a dog? It’s a huge responsibility – for years. Time, money, attention, consistency, routine, stability – none of which most formerly homeless people have.

  • Rory56 says:

    terrible idea, SF. keep dogs out of your homeless (people and dogs) solutions, this sounds dangerous to me.

  • SFgal says:

    SF needs to have the homeless work for money, not pet sit. This is wrong. I work in SF and I see the sadness in these animals that the homeless have, they are dirty, hungry, and do not look happy. 90% of the homeless have a mental disability. They don’t care for the animal. The City, should make the homeless work, clean streets or some other form of work to earn a little money. Complain to the man that initiated this WOOF! program Bevan Dufty  himself

  • Bill says:

    The new program, called WOOF, is for formerly homeless people who are enrolled in the city’s supportive housing program, so there is no way any animal will be living on the street. WOOF will be overseen by the city’s Animal Care and Control division, which has an excellent reputation for defending the rights of animals. This is a great idea and everyone should give it a chance to work before jumping to conclusions. This could be a win/win for animals and formerly homeless people trying to improve their lives.

  • Tamra says:

    This is such a misguided idea. The animals are actually safer in the shelter! I am sure that there is a possibility of a small percentage of individuals who would love and care for these dogs to the best of there abilities, but dogs are a big commitment. Living outdoors in the elements in instability with no safe and stable home, food and water source and medical care, and a risk of abandonment, these poor animals will be going from bad to worse. San Francisco, please come up with a better idea!