Kansas City Homeless Resist Abandoning Pets in Searing Heat: ‘It’s Not Loyalty’ | KCUR 89.3

David Murphy lives in his car with his two pit bulls, when Kansas City gets as hot as it has been lately, he has to take inventive measures.

To create some extra shade, he built a makeshift tent using tarps attached to his Chevy Malibu.

“When it’s too hot, I just suffer with them,” Murphy says. “We sweat and drink water together. Literally, we’ve been sitting in the heat together like, ‘Well, you do. I do.’ “

Kansas City’s homeless population struggles enough with the sweltering heat, but those with pets are doubly responsible for caring for their four-legged companions.

Most homeless shelters and cooling centers around town don’t allow pets inside, leaving pet owners with few options. Pets create a host of concerns for shelters, including bites, hygiene, and allergies.

Chance Dulin, adult outreach specialist at the agency for the homeless to restartsays most homeless residents are reluctant to give up their pets, in part for the sake of getting them back.

“That’s extreme loyalty,” Dulin says. “Their pets have proven to be loyal to them, so they feel like they should be loyal to their pet.”

But Murphy says that because people don’t want to part with their pet, they put themselves and their pets at risk, especially in brutal weather conditions.

KC Pet Project has created a service called “Home Away From Home“, which allows owners of animals in crisis to temporarily abandon their animals so that they can be taken care of at the shelter or in a foster family.

In addition to extreme weather conditions, Tori Fugate at KC Pet Project says the recent financial crisis, housing upheavals and the pandemic have created the need for temporary animal placements.

“We heard of people who ultimately lost their lives because they had no place to go,” Fugate says. “Every time he hits those extreme temperatures, whether it’s hot or cold, we see him in the cold more often. People just don’t have options.

Carlos Moreno

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KCUR 89.3

David Murphy describes how he and his pit bulls sweat in hot weather under tarps that cover his car parked near reStart.

Murphy, 42, has owned Felony and Red Dog for three years. Near his makeshift tent at 9th Street and Harrison, he also improvised a dog race with their leashes tied to a cord running along a fence. Bowls of dry dog ​​food and water sit nearby as he plays with the two red-nosed brindles.

If he was forced to choose between his dogs and a cool place to stay, Murphy says the last thing he would do is leave his dogs behind.

“I don’t give up on them. I had friends, I had family,” Murphy says. “There’s no one but the dogs, man. They are faithful.

Fugate says KC Pet Project occasionally visits homeless camps to administer people with their pets. They were even able to give people shelter vouchers if their animals were vaccinated.

But getting them to surrender their animals is another story.

Kansas City homelessness prevention coordinator Josh Henges says programs like Home Away from Home are just fixes. A competitive housing market makes it almost impossible for anyone with dogs to find housing, especially for people coming out of homelessness.

“We are losing this battle because we do everything the same way,” Henges said. ” It needs to change. And in that change there will be pain, discomfort and frustration.

“And it starts with stuff like that,” he adds.

Dulin says he suggested that Murphy place his dogs in foster care while he tries to find permanent housing and full-time employment.

“He literally broke down and started crying,” Dulin says. “He would rather go without the services he needs before giving them up for adoption or whatever.”

Murphy gets emotional when talking about his dogs, or even alluding to the suggestion to give them up. He says he has no interest in using the temporary care program at KC Pet Project.

“That’s not loyalty,” he said, looking at the two dogs at his feet. “They didn’t pawn me.”

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