By Diego Vara
CANOAS, Brazil (Reuters) - A small city in southern Brazil has found a way to attract more homeless people to one of its shelters on chilly winter nights: They now also take in people's pets.
Canoas -- a city with an estimated population of 348,000 in the state of Rio Grande do Sul -- came to the realization that many people living on the streets avoided staying at the city's 14 shelters during the Southern Hemisphere winter now taking place because their pets were not welcome, said the city's animal welfare special secretary, Fabiane Tomazi Borba.
"Many times, they prefer not to stay in a shelter, so as not to abandon their pets," the animal care specialist said.
Homeless people and their pets can now sleep under a roof and find shelter from the low temperatures at the La Salle Sao Paulo school facilities, which can house up to 150 people per day.
Machado de Lima has been sleeping at the shelter with his dogs.
"If I couldn't stay at the shelter, I would take them (dogs) to sleep with me. They sleep with me in the street," he said.
Homeless people receive an amenity kit containing items like soap, towels, toothbrush and toothpaste, and are provided with breakfast and dinner. Their pets receive a veterinary checkup.
Animal care specialist Borba said pets are checked for parasites, vaccinated and castrated or spayed.
"They can live here with their parents, sleep warm, healthily and with the guarantee that they will not transmit any illness. So the perspective is to care for humans, but, also, for pets," she said.
(Reporting by Diego Vara; Writing by Peter Frontini; editing by Jonathan Oatis)