• Stine Juul Larsen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
This master thesis examines homeless people’s attachment to their companion-animals and the consequences of the social relief systems lacking recognition of this attachment.
Companion-animals play an important role in the lives of many people. About 40 % of the Danish population has companion-animals.

The last 10 years of international studies show, how companion-animals have a positive effect on human beings both physically, mentally and socially. It is for instance proved, that interaction with animals decreases a person’s cortisol level and blood pressure, reduces stress and depression, increases contact with other people and is the source of attachment and peace of mind.

In spite of the above mentioned factors companion-animals are not included nor considered in the Danish social relief systems offers to homeless people, thereby, in my hypothesis, forcing them towards further exclusion from society. Something I have experienced several times in my job as a social worker on both street- and administration level.
I start the thesis with examining the existing studies on the combination companion-animals and social work, and conclude that they are few and primarily from the United States. I then map how few places there are for companion-animals at the 62 shelters for homeless people in Denmark (30 out of 2100) and describe these shelters experiences with including animals and the other shelters reasons for not including them.

In the analysis, and on the background of 8 qualitative interviews with former and present homeless persons, I describe the special attachment and bond between homeless people and their animals, concluding that they are the source of mutual love, self-worth, responsibility and harm reduction such as a preventing crime, lowering drug abuse and preventing attempts of suicide. On the base of these finds, with the inspiration of the German critical sociologist Axels Honneth, I analyze the consequences of the Danish social relief systems lacking recognition and offence of the attachment and bond, concluding that it forces homeless people further in to exclusion from society, because they decline offers and social workers, which do not recognize the special bond, show solidarity or include their animals in the offers or the plans of action.

In the end and with regards to my critical position to the study, I declare, how my conclusion should be taken into consideration and discussion by the social workers, in the local authority and on a top political level.

Key Words: companion-animals, homelessness, social work, recognition, Honneth
Publication date18 Aug 2013
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 80203470