Britain’s Got Talent Champion Ashleigh – of Ashleigh and Pudsey fame – is supporting leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s this summer, with her new dog, Sully.
Ashleigh and Sully will be taking on St Mungo’s ‘Take the Lead’ challenge, alongside hundreds of other fundraisers from across the world, by walking 26.2 miles throughout the month of August.
The money raised will go towards St Mungo’s work supporting people who are experiencing homelessness to begin their journey to recovery and rebuild their lives.
St Mungo’s is one of the only homelessness charities in England to accept pets into their hostels, recognising the hugely powerful and emotional support that animals can provide, The charity believes no-one should face the choice of giving up their pet in order to be given a home.
However, research by the University of Nottingham has revealed that currently, only 7% of private landlords advertise pet-friendly properties and just 36.8% of homelessness organisations provide services for pets, meaning far too many people who are sleeping rough remain on the streets for an increased period of time, due to the lack of suitable accommodation for both themselves and their pet.
Talking about her support for the challenge, Ashleigh Butler said: “Pudsey was my best friend and he gave me so many amazing opportunities. We had a special bond and I know it’s the same for people who are trying to rebuild their lives and recover from homelessness. Their dogs mean the world to them.
“This has been a challenging year for everyone, and I’m lucky that Sully and I have each other. This is a fantastic challenge for people to get outside and spend time with their dogs. I’m proud to be supporting Take the Lead.”
One duo that has been supported by St Mungo’s recently, is Justin and his dog Gunner – an 11 year old Staffy cross. Speaking about the difficulties of finding dog friendly accommodation when he was sleeping rough, Justin said: “I lived with my parents but when they both passed away, I was made homeless so I spent a year and a half on the streets. Gunner helped me get through it but my goal was always to get us somewhere to stay inside.
“I was offered hostels before this one but they didn’t accept dogs so asked me to separate from him. There was no way I was ever going to do that because I don’t know what I’d do without him. I said I’d wait until we found somewhere that both of us could stay and that’s why I was on the streets a year and a half.”
Petra Salva, Director of Rough Sleeping, Westminster and Migrant Services at St Mungo’s said: “I am delighted that we are hosting Take the Lead for a second year running. My dog, Nero, and I took part together last year and had a brilliant time, so I look forward to taking on the challenge with him again this year, whilst most importantly, raising money to end homelessness.
“Our clients’ pets are a huge support and comfort to them, sometimes their only companion, and it is heart breaking that whilst people are already going through such a difficult time, they may also be separated from their pets because they don’t have a solid place to call home. “That is why it is so important that St Mungo’s reduces such barriers for those people in accepting pets into our hostels and helping the person on their journey to recovery.”
Jenny Stavisky, former academic at the University of Nottingham and founder of Vets in the Community said: “Organisations such as St Mungo’s, which allow people and pets to be housed together, are incredibly important in looking after some of the most vulnerable members of our society, whether two legged or four. It would be great if more services were supported and encouraged to allow people and pets to stay together in some of the toughest times during their lives, so that they can look after each other.”
Take the Lead is also being supported by luxury dog food brand, Lily’s Kitchen. Samantha Crossley, Marketing Director at Lily’s Kitchen says: “Lily’s Kitchen is delighted to support St Mungo’s again this year with their Take the Lead challenge, highlighting the scale of homelessness in the UK today.
“Like us, St Mungo’s understands that the bond between pet and pet parents is a special one, and that our pets offer us unconditional love and support through life’s ups and downs. The work St Mungo’s does to ensure that their clients are accommodated along with their pets is so important, and we’re proud to be able to help this vital campaign.”
For more information about how to participate in Take the Lead, visit https://takethelead.mungos.org/. Once signed up, fundraisers can also take part in a fabulous social media competition for the chance to win an exclusive hamper for their furry friends, including tasty treats and a book full of delicious recipes. The competition for the Lily’s Kitchen hamper will take place between 27 – 30 July. Check out @StMungos on Instagram for more info.