A bill has been introduced to Parliament which seeks to put an end to the “No Pets” clauses which are common with rental properties and support responsible pet owners looking for rental accommodation.
The “No Pets” clause is a common feature with most rental homes across the UK, and it is thought that it is a barrier which prevents people from moving into suitable properties. Their choice is to either give up their pet or live in unsuitable accommodation or on the streets – and many people choose the latter.
The 10-minute bill, officially known as the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection Bill), was introduced by MP Andrew Rosindell and passed its first reading, with a second due on the 29th January 2021. In the speech, Mr Rosindell said:
“…pet owners who move into rented accommodation are faced with the reality that their family could be torn apart because most landlords in Britain have unnecessary bans or restrictions on pet ownership…such restrictions are nothing less than discrimination. Cruel to both owner and animal alike.”
The bill is named “Jasmine’s Law” after a Weimaraner owned by the Adams family from Surrey. Jasmine’s owner would love to accommodate Jasmine at his apartment, even if only for short stays. But restrictions mean he is one of the millions of people in the U.K. prevented from living with his pet, so Jasmine instead has to live at the family home with his mother.
Mr Rosindell went on to say that for dogs whose owners have no choice but to give them up, they are faced with an uncertain future in kennels, with people they don’t know. This isn’t just heartbreaking for the owner, but stressful for the dog too.
Battersea Dogs & Cats Home have found that these “No Pets” clauses are the second main reason why people are forced to give up their dogs here in the UK. It is thought that 10% of all pets which pass through their doors have been handed over for this reason, which is ~200 per year.
It has a particular impact on the homeless population. Many refuse to give up their pets, forcing them to turn down the offers of ‘no pet’ accommodation and continue to live on the streets. They are told they are ‘intentionally homeless’ and are therefore refused further housing assistance. Many rely on the companionship of these pets to get them through these conditions, so to force them to give this up is cruel in the eyes of those behind the petition.
Eight million households in the UK live in rental properties. This is 38% of all UK households, which is predicted to rise to 40% by 2025. However, the Coronavirus pandemic has seen uncertainty over the economy, jobs and housing, which means this could actually grow much more.
Yet, 55% of all landlords are thought to ban pets. Social housing is a particular issue here; 3.4 million UK homes are social rented, yet the sector is controlled by few landlords, and tenants stay in these properties up to 3x as long as ordinary rentals.
Only 24% of Local Authorities allow all their tenants to keep a dog, and while the number who are allowed to keep cats is 48%, it still leaves over 1.5 million people without the chance to live with a pet. Pet ownership is said to increase mental wellbeing, fitness levels and social interaction, so there are wider issues to this ban than the simple restrictions.
Around 30% of rental tenants are thought to own a pet which they haven’t declared, whether this is a cat or dog or something smaller, and they would risk eviction if they were discovered. This puts them in a perilous situation.
In Belgium, a court declared that a complete ban on pets violated the right to private life. Germany’s courts said a blanket ban would be unfair and is legally “ineffective”.
As for France, “no pet” clauses were banned way back in 1970, and blanket bans in the USA are prohibited in all public housing, which has been the case since 2000.
So, for a nation of animal lovers, the UK lacks woefully behind the laws of some other leading countries when it comes to animal welfare and rental or social housing.
Responsible Pet Ownership
The key factor in this bill is ‘responsible’ pet ownership.
Many landlords ban pets on the belief that they will be a noise nuisance, will create a mess and damage the property. Some landlords impose higher rents and deposits for ‘pet-friendly’ properties as a way to cover the risk of damage. Many also have individual requests that the dog doesn’t go into certain areas, or that they are microchipped and trained.
Mr Rosindell admitted that in some cases, landlords impose these restrictions with good cause:
“Many landlords have legitimate concerns, which I do not want to dismiss lightly. It is true that irresponsibly owned pets can be a cause of damage, misery and suffering to the animals themselves, to the neighbours and also those who own and manage the properties.”
However, he thinks there is room to improve the communication between landlords and the authorities. A “responsible ownership checklist” would include dogs requiring to be vaccinated and microchipped and responsive to basic training commands, with appropriate rules applying to other animals.
A vet would scan them and ensure everything is up-to-date, with their inclusion on a national database and proof of ownership. As for the homeless population, there are charities which can help with this, making it easier for dogs to have access to healthcare.