McBride, E.A. and Bryant, I.
Pets, policies and tenants: report on PATHWAY housing provider - 'Pet Policy' survey Pathway – Pets and Housing Working Group
The Pet Foods Manufacturers’ Association (2003) estimates 50% of UK households have a pet. Whilst most have traditional ‘domestic’ species, there is an increasing trend for exotic species including invertebrates, snakes, parrots and raptors. Insufficient knowledge of species’ needs may result in poor animal welfare. Health and safety issues potentially compromise human welfare, such as zoonotic disease or bite injury. Escaped small mammals can chew through wiring, causing a fire hazard to all residents. These issues have become of increasing concern to the community, as reflected in legislation, and to Housing Providers. PATHWAY (the Pets and Housing Working Group) initially attempted to address these concerns with the publicaton of two advisory documents, “Guidelines for Housing Providers” and “Pets and People”.
The survey aimed to provide an overview of the current state of housing provision for pet owners and the nature and content of ‘pet’ policies. A questionnaire was sent to 1193 Local Authorities and Housing Associations. 374 usable returns were received, 211 supplied policy documentation as requested.
9% of Local Authorities estimated pet ownership in their properties at less than 20% compared to 60% of Housing Associations. This may reflect the more limited provision of individual Housing Associations, such as only providing sheltered accommodation for older adults. The majority of all providers supplied tenants with a written ‘pet’ policy. These ranged from a single clause in the tenancy agreement to extensive additional documentation. Content analysis was conducted on the 211 policies supplied.
Based on overall content and linguistic style, policies fell into four categories: prohibitive, restrictive, permissive and supportive. 72% were permissive, with greater variability in policy type shown amongst Housing Associations.
Further analysis revealed three categories of permission required for pet ownership: Implicit, Explicit and Explicit Written. In the majority of cases it was not clear how permission was obtained, nor the consequences should it be revoked.
Policies tended to be framed in terms of tenant interests and accommodation circumstances. Restrictions related to the type of dwelling; type and number of pets; and their behaviour. Ambiguity in all areas of permissions / restrictions was common. For example, 80% of policies mentioned a general requirement to “keep pets under control”. However advice on what was meant by this term, or the consequences of not doing so was specified in only a minority of submissions.
Ambiguity can lead to inconsistent adherence to the policy and issues of enforcement. This may cause deterioration of relationships between tenants and housing provider. Such circumstances will result in reduced quality of life for owners (and other tenants), with possible legal proceedings and even eviction. There is potential for compromised animal and human welfare. Areas needing further consideration when drafting pet policies and how clarity might be achieved are outlined and discussed.
||Dr. Anne McBride was co-founder of both HOPE (Homeless People with Pets) and PATHWAY (the Pets and Housing Working Group), of which she is still Vice Chairman.
||pets, tenants, housing, accommodation, policy, welfare
||29 Jul 2008
||16 Apr 2017 17:44
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