Founder of Northeast Charity which Supports Homeless People and their Pets Awarded the OBE

Street Paws was opened in 2016 by Michelle Southern

Michelle Southern, who founded Street Paws charity has been recognised in King Charles’ new year’s honours, and will travel to Buckingham Palace to collect her award, in recognition of her services to homeless people and their pets.

Reacting to the news, she said: “Things like this just don’t happen to people like me, I am completely overwhelmed and I’m also excited for what this award will do in raising more awareness for the charity and our work.

“Getting recognition like this for the charity, its hardworking volunteers, supporters and the issues we represent is huge, and I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who makes Street Paws what it is.”

Founded in Newcastle in 2016, Street Paws aims to empower homeless people to keep their pets by their side with the provision of free veterinary care and protect the human animal bond by keeping owners and their pets together wherever possible.

Michelle, 54, who lives in Blyth Northumberland was volunteering at a soup kitchen in central Newcastle when she first saw a homeless person bring their dog.  The experience stayed with her, and she realised that there were no services in place to help if the animal needed check-ups, support or veterinary care.

Keen to make a difference, Michelle, a former veterinary practice manager, persuaded a vet to come down to the soup kitchen with her the following week and the pair worked hard to build trust with the pet owners who were understandably concerned that their best friends might be taken away.

The first pet that the newly established Street Paws team saw was Clyde, a ferret who was a loyal and cheeky companion to his owner. “We quickly became friends with Clyde who needed nothing more than his nails clipped, and this really won everyone over.” Said Michelle.

She added: “The general consensus is that around one in ten homeless people have a companion animal with them. This means there are a large amount of pets that need support, and we saw that we could make a difference.

“You have to remember that these people have lost everything and people were very worried that if someone thought that they didn’t look after their pet they would take them away. It took months to fully build up that trust.

“Sometimes people would tell us that their dog saw a vet, when you know that wasn’t true. But the animals were almost always in very good condition.”

“It is all about building trust, and after that people understand that we are here to help.”

Street Paws was born, and the registered charity now provides support in the UK across The North East, North West, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland.

In 2018 Street Paws identified a huge problem which is directly impacting on the available services and support that homeless people with pets can receive.

At the moment fewer than 10% of hostels allow animals to come inside.

This creates a terrible choice for pet owners who are asked to give up their pet to access accommodation and support. Fewer than 7% of homeless pet owners said they would give up their pet in exchange for housing in a recent Crisis survey.

In 2019 Street Paws launched an ongoing drive to encourage more hostels to become Dog Champions, and accept the animals of people in need too.

The scheme’s aim is to equip hostel staff with the essential skills that they need to ensure a safe place for residents and their pets.

It offers hostels accredited staff training and support, canine first aid training and a first aid kit, advice on pet policies, owner agreements and full veterinary care.

As well as that the charity has launched an online learning platform, and Good Pet Owner Training and dog CV scheme so that service users can demonstrate a responsible approach to their companion animal when moving into permanent accommodation.

Michelle said: “The bond between a homeless person and their pet is well documented and provides many positive mental and physical benefits to the owner.  

“Despite this most people who are homeless are asked to give up their pet to access accommodation.  Street Paws charity believes that owning a dog should not be a barrier to accessing support and a safe place to sleep.  

“It is essential that as many people make it to a shelter as possible, and we believe that skilling up hostels and helping them to become pet friendly is a giant stepping stone.”

The charity is now gearing up to celebrate its eighth birthday, and their good works over the years have not gone unnoticed.

Celebrity supporters and patrons currently include TV vets Dr Scott Miller, Cat Henstridge BVSc MRCVS and Peter Wright BVSc MRCVS.

Recently North East reality TV star and influencer Vicky Pattison has offered support to the charity advocating for a winter fundraising campaign to support further schemes in 2024.  She also recently joined an event in Newcastle to hand out Christmas treats for some of our four legged hostel residents.

The work of Street Paws was made all the more difficult by covid, but volunteers worked hard throughout the pandemic to support those in need, and implement the Dog Champions Scheme to ensure that as many homeless people as possible are able to access a pet-friendly shelter.

Michelle added: “The Dog Champions Scheme is a real game changer for so many homeless people who have pets, and we hope that more hostels than ever will accept our support to become pet friendly.”

To find out more about Street Paws and to donate go to

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