Who is NOAH?
NOAH represents the UK animal health industry. We promote the benefits of safe, effective, quality products and services for the health and welfare of all animals. Our vision is to be at the forefront of UK animal health and welfare.
Widening access to pets in rented accommodation
In the UK, owning a pet in rented accommodation can be challenging, and in many cases, not possible at all. According to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), only 7% of properties on the British rental market are currently advertised as pet friendly, meaning renters in the UK with pets can have a difficult time either finding a suitable property that will accept their pet, or they are faced with the impossible decision to give up their pet in exchange for a tenancy.
The number of properties advertised as pet-friendly remains very low, yet the number of people entering into rented accommodation in the UK is on the rise. In 2020, 18.7% of the population were living in private rented properties, with an additional 16.7% living in social rented property. That means more than 1/3 of people in the UK are likely to be excluded from pet ownership.
At NOAH, we want to change this, and enable every responsible tenant who already owns a pet or who wants to have a companion animal to have access to good-quality housing that does not exclude them from this.
The Model Tenancy Agreement
The MHCLG published their new Model Tenancy Agreement (MTA) on 28th January 2021, which makes it easier for tenants with pets to find rented accommodation. Crucially, the updated MTA removes the ability for landlords to issue a blanket ban on pets – instead, consent for pets is the default position, and landlords will have to object in writing within 28 days of a written pet request from a tenant and provide a good reason for refusal.
Of course, this is a positive step in the right direction, and we are pleased to see the government act on this important issue. However, the MTA does not go far enough. It remains speculative, it only applies to England, and property owners are not obligated by law to adopt or enforce the MTA.
In order for the MTA to be effective in promoting consent for pets, we are keen to see the government introduce further amendments that encourage landlords in England to adopt this tenancy agreement, and to explore how this policy can be extended across the UK. We are working to best understand how this could be done in a way that mutually benefits tenants and landlords, whilst providing the vital security needed to protect the landlord’s asset.
Finally, we would like to see the government extend the MTA to social housing and assited living facilities, identifying a way to encourage housing association and private providers to allow pet ownership for those with disabilities or the elderly.
Responsible pet owners should not be excluded the right to share their life with a companion animal, regardless of their living situation.
The UK is a pet-loving nation, in fact, the PFMA recently reporting that over 17 million British households own a pet! Our companion animals provide extensive benefits to our lives, including on our mental and physical health, overall wellbeing, and our happiness.
- Emotional Bonding & Confidence – pet owners form deep emotional bonds with their pets, and pets can equally develop mutual emotional bonds for their owners. Pets provide the unconditional relationship that can help someone to build social skills and confidence. This is particularly true for autistic people, who often benefit from pet ownership as the pet provides sensory relief and can provide a sense of reassurance when their owner feels overwhelmed.
- Loneliness – the UK faces a loneliness crisis, with more and more people feeling isolated or alone. In fact, Campaign to End Loneliness found that 45% of adults reported feeling occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England equating to a huge 25 million people. The problem worsens in older people, with 2/5 of older people saying that television is their main company. Lockdown due to COVID-19 has also highlighted the importance of having a pet, and a recent study of more than 5,000 people in the UK, found that 90% of pet owners reported that their pet helped them to cope better emotionally during lockdown.
- Stress, Anxiety & Depression – it is well-known that pets can have a profound impact on reducing feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Science has time and time again shown how pets can have a calming effect on humans – stroking, playing or even just sitting with an animal has been proven to reduce negative feelings by providing a sensory relief and lowering blood pressure.
- Safety – pets can help us to feel more secure and protected in our homes, either through their companionship which makes us feel less alone, or through their territorial nature which can help to alert an owner of an intruder. A recent survey found that 41% of dog owners feel ‘much safer’ with a dog in their homes, and 29% said their pets makes them feel a ‘bit safer.’ An impressive 75% of dog owners also felt certain that having a dog in their home made it less likely to be broken into. Safety can be a big concern for many people, and having a pet in your home can be a way of minimising fear or stress around your personal safety and wellbeing.
- Healthier Lifestyle & Balance – pets can encourage a healthier lifestyle, by creating better daily routines and inspiring owners to get outside for some fresh air and exercise. Research has shown that Brits are putting their health at risk by failing to get active, with Public Health England finding than 1 in 2 (42%) of women, and 1 in 3 (34%) of men are not active enough for good health. The same report highlights the extensive benefits of simply incorporating more walking into your day – including a reduced risk of death and exposure to diseases, improve metabolic health and a greater sense of wellbeing.
- Work Life Balance – COVID-19 saw almost 5.6 million people move to working from home, and this is a trend that looks set to stay as many companies acknowledge the benefits of offering flexible working to employees. In fact, 26% of Brits plan to continue working from home permanently or occasionally after lockdown ends. Working from home, however, can lead to an imbalance in your work/life balance, with many finding themselves working longer or more irregular hours and finding it more difficult to ‘switch off.’ Having a pet in your life can add balance, as the sense of responsibility of caring for your pet can be the push you need to get outside and reach your activity goals, helping you to make the time you need for a break.
Sadly, the adversity to allowing pets in rented accommodation is having an extremely negative impact on pets and pet owners in the UK.
- Rehoming a pet – Dogs Trust state that the single biggest reason that dogs are handed to rehoming centres is due to a change in their owner’s living circumstances. Dogs Trust alone sees more than 130,000 dogs come into their rehoming centres each year in the UK, whilst the RSPCA sees around 30,000 cats handed to their centres. Whilst these charity groups work tirelessly to care for the pets in their care, it can be emotionally damaging to a pet to live in a shelter environment.
- Euthanasia – Shelters like Dogs Trust are charity funded and rely on a finite amount of resource to care for animals. In some extreme cases, animals are not rehomed due to reasons including being elderly or having a long-term illness – this means that shelters must make the impossible decision to euthanise a pet who cannot find its forever home.
- Elderly People – there is substantial evidence that indicates elderly people may refuse moving into supported accommodation (despite it being in their best interest) due to fear of losing their companion animal – in fact, 20% of elderly people with pets state they would refuse to go into care to avoid being separate from their companion animal, for example by pretending they were in good health. Shockingly, 4.3% of elderly people in the same study stated they would consider taking their own life if they had to move without their pet. There is also historical evidence that the loss of a pet for an elderly person can cause significant and long-term emotional distress, causing overall detriment to their health which may already be at risk. A recent survey found that two thirds of UK older pet owners would be ‘devastated’ if they had to give up their pet to go into care.