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Wed, 21 October 2020

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Cruel 'no pets' policies on rented accommodation are exacerbating loneliness

Cruel 'no pets' policies on rented accommodation are exacerbating loneliness

Credit: PA Images

4 min read

Pet owners currently face the reality that their family could be torn apart because most landlords in Britain have unnecessary bans or restrictions on pet ownership. As a nation of animal lovers, how can we allow this situation to continue?

This summer marked three years since “Buster”, my Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the most famous dog in Parliament, passed away.

Reflecting on this brings me sadness, but also a deep appreciation at just how fortunate I was to have so many years of him at my side.

Others aren’t so lucky.

The past two decades have seen a significant increase in the percentage of the population who rent their accommodation.

According to the Office of National Statistics, since 2008-2009, the percentage of people in private rented accommodation has increased from 14% to 19%.

This means that more and more people are being separated from their pets, because of a “no pets” policy that is, more often than not, completely unnecessary.

And when they are unnecessary, they are unjust.

At the moment, landlords effectively have full discretion on whether to allow pets into rented accommodation. In most cases they impose these restrictions and as a result Battersea Dogs & Cats Home now says that “no pets” policies constitute the second largest factor behind people giving up their dogs, with more than two hundred dogs a year given to Battersea to be re-homed.

Many of these dogs will be well-trained dogs with responsible owners. In many cases their owners will be going into accommodation suitable for a dog. Yet they are being separated. 

For many people, being separated from a pet is like being separated from a family member.

This is discrimination, pure and simple. The law must change.

As a nation of animal lovers, how can we allow this situation to continue?  Moving home is a normal part of life and yet pet owners currently face the reality that their family could be torn apart because most landlords in Britain have unnecessary bans or restrictions on pet ownership.

For many people, being separated from a pet is like being separated from a family member.

And with the devastating impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health, this issue is more important than ever.

Loneliness and isolation are already painful features of life for millions up and down this country. This would only be compounded for anyone required to give up their pet when moving into accommodation with a “no pets” policy. Indeed the positive impact of pets on people’s well-being is estimated to save the NHS up to £2.45bn a year, according to the University of Lincoln.

It is time to put an end to this cruel and unnecessary situation. That is why I am proposing legislation through a parliamentary mechanism known as a Ten Minute Rule Bill, which would restrict the ability of landlords to impose blanket “no pets” policies on rented accommodation.

My legislation, named “Jasmine’s Law” after a dog that is banned from living with a member of her loving family, will require renters to demonstrate they are “responsible owners” with a suggested checklist including a vet’s confirmation that their pet is vaccinated, spayed/neutered, free of parasites and responsive to basic training commands in the case of dogs.

In cases where the renter can prove they are a “responsible owner” and the accommodation is suitable for their pet, the right to take a pet into rented accommodation would be assumed.

This is not a radical proposal. It combines respect for the rights of landlords to manage their property with the rights of pet owners to bring their beloved companions with them through important stages of life. It is supported by, among others, the RSPCA, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Cats Protection and many more.

Nor is it without precedent. 

France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland all have legislation banning blanket restrictions on pets in rented accommodation to stop discrimination against pet owners. If they can do it, then so should the United Kingdom.

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