The keeping of pets in sheltered, social and council accommodation can pose many challenges for housing providers, yet research shows that animals, when well cared for and responsibly kept, can be an asset to any community.
The importance of a good pets policy and associated procedures cannot be underestimated in terms of their impact in tackling both social and health issues. However, a poor policy and procedures can create an environment with problems such as fouling, straying, anti-social use of animals (for example, using dogs as weapons) and animal welfare and health concerns.
The aim of this Footprint is to encourage housing providers, be it local authorities, arms-length management organisations (ALMOs) or housing associations, to take positive steps to encourage and ensure responsible pet ownership in the properties they manage, and to recognise others that are doing so. In addition, the Footprint aims to encourage a considered pets-in-housing policy that is not simply a ‘knee jerk’ response to problems that have arisen through a weak pet policy or tensions created by an anti-social minority.
The Housing Footprint is open to any housing provider in England and Wales, of any size.
- A clear and positive written policy for all housing controlled or influenced by the local authority or housing associations. The following should be a part of the policy.
- Clearly defined guidance, with some flexibility to allow requests to keep pets on a case-by-case basis where the owner can meet the animal’s welfare needs.
- Details of the owner’s responsibility and a definition of which species of animal and how many are allowed. It should not discourage pet ownership where facilities exist for proper care.
- This can define the number of animals per dwelling and what constitutes suitable accommodation, and set out clear obligations that the owner must adhere to in order to ensure an animal’s welfare and that it does not become a nuisance. The importance of allowing discretion means that cases can be looked at where they do not meet the conditions outlined, but there may be a solution. A grievance procedure will give both pet owners and non pet-owners a clear procedure for complaints, so that neither animal welfare nor human health and safety are compromised. For further information see the RSPCA’s publication: Housing – a guide to good practice, Community Animal Welfare Footprints.
- A clear procedure for managing complaints and the concerns of both pet owners and neighbours regarding nuisance animals, welfare, health or cruelty issues.
- A ban on business activity involving the breeding and/or vending of animals on premises. The policy should also discourage non-commercial breeding.
- A list of local, reputable animal welfare organisations made available to residents.
- If people know where to go for advice, then animal welfare issues, particularly those surrounding sickness or injury, are less likely to become a problem.
All of Bronze, plus evidence of
- Written pet care advice/information by, or approved by, a recognised animal welfare source made available to residents on registering their pets in the accommodation.
- Basic information/education on the welfare needs of pets, along with contact details of reputable animal welfare organisations, can reduce the number of welfare-related problems. The RSPCA has produced pet care advice that you can use. To view visit: www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare
- The active promotion of permanent identification and neutering of pets.
- The neutering of animals has many potential welfare benefits, including a reduction in the number of unwanted litters. Microchipping is a legal requirement for dogs and increases the chances of straying animals being returned to their owners safely, while the process of microchipping provides an opportunity for a knowledgeable animal handler to see the animal and talk to the owner about any other issues.
- A register of all animals kept in each dwelling, which is kept and updated as required.
- A register works in three ways. Firstly, it ensures that the housing manager has an idea of which animals are kept in each home – this means that if an animal strays it is likely to be reunited with the owner. Secondly, it allows officers to locate owners of reported nuisance pets faster. Thirdly, pets can be evacuated more quickly in the case of emergency if officers have a list of where they are located.
- A proportionate response to prohibited types of dogs (i.e. those prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991) which allows dogs on the Index of Exempted Dogs (IED) and able to be legally owned, to be kept within properties as long as the owner continues to comply with the exemption conditions.
- f a dog is permitted entry to the IED, a court must decide that he or she does not pose a danger to public safety (a scrutiny process the majority of other dogs do not undergo, so extremely useful from a risk assessment point of view). Housing providers should not have policies which ban all dogs of prohibited types, regardless of their IED status.
All of Bronze and Silver, plus evidence of
- Provision of discounted permanent ID for pets and a neutering discount to prevent unwanted breeding.
- Cost, particularly for neutering, is an issue for some pet owners. Discounting needs active involvement from the local authority or other housing provider.
- Provision for the pets of owners in temporary or emergency housing.
- Measures should be in place to ensure that people placed in temporary accommodation do not have to give up their pets permanently and reflects local authorities’ statutory responsibilities for the pets of residents who go into care under the Care Act 2014/Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. These could include liaison with recognised organisations that provide animal fostering services or an arrangement with an animal centre and/or licensed boarding establishment.
- An established link with a recognised animal welfare organisation that provides residents with advice on pet care on request or by monthly or quarterly visits.
- Regular contact with animal experts will give residents the opportunity to talk about a concern regarding their pets’ behaviour or health before it becomes a serious welfare issue.