Animal rescue centres report that they are inundated with pets that have had to be offered up by their owners because landlords are to ready to put in place conditions in tenancy agreements that forbid pets.
Last week in Parliament, Cats Protection held a reception to raise awareness of the problem and to launch their campaign to change attitudes. I think it is an important issue. My own pet cat, Gus, was adopted from a Cats Protection rehoming centre and he had to be given up by his previous owner because she was moving home, and the new landlord would not accept pets.
We are a nation of animal lovers and, for many, their pet dog or cat provides vital companionship. Locally in Cornwall we have some exceptional charities who help keep elderly or vulnerable people united with their pets. The Cinnamon Trust in Hayle runs a nationwide network of volunteers who visit elderly people and take their dogs out for a walk. As well as providing their pets with exercise the volunteers also provide much needed social contact for people ask risk of loneliness and, should the pet’s owner sadly pass away before their pet, the dog has a social bond with their walker and this can help resettle them.
Many elderly or isolated people gain so much from having the companionship of a pet. It can help combat loneliness which is a growing problem in our society. It is a tragedy when they are separated from them as a result of attitudes that come from some landlords or, more usually, the attitudes of estate agents that are managing properties for landlords and can’t be bothered to accommodate the needs of their tenants. To make matters worse, it is then the animal rescue centres that have to pick up the pieces and there can be emotional stress of the pet.
In the summer my office was contacted by a constituent whose dog had sadly passed away. It was a relatively young dog, and she was clearly heartbroken by the loss of her companion. Unfortunately, she had been told by her housing association that she would not be able to get another dog. Whilst they had allowed the dog when she moved in, as she already had him, they couldn’t give permission for a new pet. I thought this made no sense at all and asked that they look at the case again. The Housing Association concerned has since reviewed their policy on these matters to do more to keep residents and their pets united.
There are challenges and problem enough in life without making things difficult when they need not be. Often all that is required in areas such as this is an attitude change so that it becomes the default position to allow pets in rented accommodation rather than the lazy default position not to allow pets. Estate agents who draft standard template tenancies have an important role to play to ensure that they do not cause completely avoidable stress and a burden on animal welfare charities.