At NOAH, we believe that all responsible owners should be able to share their lives with a companion animal. Pets offer extensive benefits to human lives, including on our physical and mental health, overall wellbeing, and of course, our happiness. In return, humans can offer pets security, nutrition and love; helping to reduce the number of animals living as strays or handed into shelters.
So, what are the benefits of pet ownership?
- 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 individuals with learning difficulties, and individuals struggling with social disorders such as Anxiety. Pets provide sensory relief, and most importantly, a sense of reassurance when owners feel overwhelmed.
The UK faces a loneliness crisis, with more and more people across the country 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.
Animals can be a crucial source of companionship for individuals suffering from feelings of isolation or loneliness, particularly for anyone who lives alone.
- 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!
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 people in the UK are putting their health at risk by failing to get active, with Public Health England finding that 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, improved 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, a huge 85% of employees in the UK want to adopt a ‘hybrid’ approach to working in the future, whilst 19% of employees want to work from home full-time.
Whilst working from home offers a number of benefits, it 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 restore some of this 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.
And what are the impacts of restrictive tenancy agreements?
Sadly, the current rental market position on pet ownership in the UK has made it very challenging for responsible pet owners to either keep pets they already have, or to adopt new pets. The changes proposed as part of the Government’s Rental Reform White Paper will mean that restrictive tenancy agreements can no longer prevent pet ownership, unless in very specific circumstances.
However, it is important that we continue to work to ensure that the Government delivers on the commitments set out in the White Paper. If we as a nation fail to tackle restrictive tenancy agreements, the long-term impact on both animals and humans will become increasingly negative, for the following reasons:
The single biggest reason that animals are handed into rehoming centres, according to Dogs Trust, is due to a change in an owner’s living circumstances. Dogs Trust alone see more than 130,000 dogs handed to their rehoming centres each year, whilst the RSPCA sees around 30,000 cats in need of rehoming.
Whilst charity groups work tirelessly to care for the pets that come into their care, resources are limited and dependent on donations, resulting in challenges in caring for the huge number of pets coming in and out of rehoming centres. Not only is it challenging to meet the needs of all these pets from a resourcing perspective, but it can also be extremely distressing for a pet to adapt to living in a shelter environment, particularly for anxious or elderly pets.
If restrictive tenancies continue, there is a strong chance that rehoming centres will be overwhelmed, and thus the following sadly applies.
Shelters like Dogs Trust and RSPCA are charity funded, and therefore rely on a finite amount of resource to care for animals. In some extreme cases, animals cannot be rehomed for various reasons including age, long-term illness or temperament. In these cases, shelters must make the impossible decision to euthanise a pet who cannot find a suitable home.
At NOAH, we want to do everything in our power to ensure that as many pets as possible can find suitable, loving and long-term homes. By improving access to pets in rented accommodation, more pets can be adopted into loving homes, creating more room in shelters for not-adoptable pets to be cared for.
Whilst renting with pets is a challenge for a large proportion of the population, it is a particular issue for elderly individuals entering into supported living. There is substantial evidence that indicates elderly people will often refuse to move into supported accommodation – even when in their best interest – for fear of having their pet taken away from them and placed into a shelter. In fact, 20% of elderly people with pets’ state they would refuse to go into care to avoid being separated from their pet, with some even willing to lie about their health.
A shocking 4.3% of elderly people in the same study said they would consider taking their own life if they had to move without their pet. There is also historical evidence that shows the loss of a pet for an elderly person can cause significant and long-term emotional distress, causing overall detriment to their health.