Who is NOAH?
NOAH is the UK’s leading animal health industry association – its vision is to be at the forefront of UK animal health, to protect the health and welfare of all animals. NOAH represents all animals, from livestock and farm animals, to companion, working and sporting animals– our overarching ambition is to promote and protect animal health by all means possible.
Widening access to pets in rented accommodation
In the UK, owning a pet in rented accommodation can be very difficult. According to Tenants Voice, 78% of pet owners experience problems finding a rental property, and currently, according to Home Made, only 2.8% of landlords in the UK advertise homes as suitable for pets. This means that pet owners are either denied access to accommodation, or they are forced to lose their pet in exchange for accommodation. At NOAH, we do not believe any pet owner should be forced to make this impossible decision, and that is why we are campaigning for change.
Why is renting with pets a challenge?
We understand that renting with pets can come with a level of concern for landlords. A study by UMI found that the key concerns amongst landlords against pets in their properties included smell (57%), potential damage to the property (55%) and badly behaved pets (37%). , if they were to declare their pet.
Unfortunately, this is a sad reality, and the problem is getting worse – creating new issues for landlords who are unaware of pets in their properties. We believe that this problem could be effectively tackled by creating policies that protect landlords and widen access to pets, so that tenants do not breach the terms of their contracts and landlords are not only aware of pets in their properties, but are also protected by a safety net of policies.
Another key fact to keep in mind, is that despite the significant concerns landlords have around pets in their properties, 88% of residents stated that they have never had complaints about keeping domestic animals nor have their pets caused any damage to houses they rent. We are keen to work closely with landlords to understand their concerns, and to develop policies that protect them unequivocally in the strive to widening access to pets in rented accommodation.
What are the benefits of pet ownership for people?
Having a companion animal in your life has an astounding number of benefits, therefore it is no surprise that an estimated 12 million of Brits (44% of households) own a pet. Pets are not only good for our general wellbeing and happiness, but they are also proven to benefit your mental and physical health. We can break these benefits down into a few categories:
Animals are incredibly important to our mental health. They are able to form deep emotional bonds with their owners, and they can provide a source of companionship for people who are isolated. Loneliness is a profound issue in the UK – over 9 million people in the UK (around 1/5 of the population) told us they always of often feel lonely. We know that forming a bond with a companion animal can relieve this feeling of loneliness or isolation – offering a friendship in the absence of human contact. The Covid-19 pandemic particularly highlighted the importance of tackling loneliness and isolation, as many of us were forced to isolate away from friends and family for long periods of time to reduce the spread of the virus. Pets played an absolutely critical role int his time – offering vital companionship in tough times.
Science has also demonstrated how animals can reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, amongst more. Animals can have a calming effect: stroking, playing with or even just sitting with an animal has been proven to elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, by providing sensory relief and lowering blood pressure. A study by YouGov and Mars Petcare found that 82% of those surveyed believed that owning a pet would benefit their mental well-being.
Having a pet in your life can also encourage a healthier lifestyle, by creating a better daily routine and inspiring you to get outside for some fresh air. Research has shown that Brits are putting their health at risk by failing to get active, with Public Health England finding that 4 in 10 women (42%) and 1 in 3 men (34%) are not active enough for good health. The same report, however, highlights the health benefits of walking such as reduced risk of death and exposure to diseases, improved metabolic health and a greater sense of wellbeing. Having a companion animal such as a dog can significantly increase the likelihood of getting outside for some exercise.
The pandemic also highlighted the importance of being able to go outside and get active – many of us were isolated at home, struggling to separate our work and social lives, and finding it difficult to muster up the will to go outside in the challenging circumstances. Having a pet creates a sense of responsibility that pushes you to get out of the house and reach your daily activity goals, helping you to protect your own physical health by putting your pet’s health in your priorities.
The same study by YouGov and Mars Petcare mentioned above found that 75% of private renters felt a pet would benefit their physical health – whilst 61% of women said they would feel safer in their homes with a pet.
How has denying access to pets in rented accommodation affected animals and humans?
Sadly, the ever-declining number of rented properties being advertised on the market as pet-friendly is creating problems for both pet owners and pets, and indeed the wider animal population in the UK.
Dogs Trust have stated that the single biggest reason that dogs are handed into rehoming centres is due to a change in the owner’s living circumstances, whilst a survey found that 10% of people had either been forced to move home or given up a pet as a result of restrictive tenancy agreements.
Every day, animals are being given up and placed into shelters as their owners are forced to give them up – pets are losing their families and homes, and can suffer emotional trauma as a result. The other problem this causes of course, is that there are more animals in shelters and not enough homes for them to live. In some instances, shelters can be forced to euthanise pets who struggle to be adopted to their forever homes as they do not have the resources to care for all of the animals.
And it is not just pets that suffer. A survey conducted by Stay in my Life found that over 2 million people in Britain say that they know an elderly person who had to have their cat or dog put to sleep because they were moving into residential care, and also found that 20% of elderly people refuse to go into care for fear of losing their pet. An additional 18.5% said they knew an elderly person who had to have their cat or dog rehomed. Many people view their pets as family members, and for an elderly person, losing a pet can inflict significant emotional distress which can subsequently affect their health, as demonstrated by a historic study by SCAS into the impact of pet loss for elderly people.
The number of people living in rented accommodation in the UK is also rising, with the number of households in the private sector increasing to 4.5 million in 2017 (a 63% rise from 2007) as home ownership becomes increasingly difficult. People living in rented accommodation are also disproportionately young people (representing 35% of renters) who are denied access to pets until they are able to afford home ownership. We want to see this burden removed, by developing housing policies that reflect the changing dynamics of living situations instead of denying people pets due to their individual financial situations.