Jordan Adams lives in a spacious flat in Sutton, on the border with Surrey and London. There are plenty of green open spaces, making it the perfect place for him to walk his five-year-old Weimaraner, Jasmine.
There is just one problem. Jordan’s tenancy agreement includes a ‘no pets’ clause and Jasmine isn’t legally allowed to live with him. His dog must stay with his mother in the family home he moved out of three years ago.
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Coupled with the pandemic and the fact his mother is at risk of Covid-19, the 28-year-old has seen Jasmine just a handful of times over the past year.
“I’ve been working from home for almost a year like a lot of the country. To have that support and to have a pet would have made it a lot easier,” Jordan said.
“Especially to have that company when a lot of the time during this period we’ve been unable to see people outside of our bubble. When you live alone that’s quite difficult.”
He isn’t the only one who has faced the horrible choice of being separated from a pet – something which can have tragic consequences for those who are vulnerable, isolated or affected by homelessness.
In 2017, John Chadwick, from Maidstone, Kent, died by suicide after being served with an eviction notice and separated from his cat and two dogs due to “no pets” policies in council-provided accommodation.
Close friend Dee Bonnett has described how after overcoming issues with alcohol and sleeping rough, John needed his pets “to wake up to and go home to at the end of each day”.
And researchers from Nottingham University recently found that despite health benefits associated with dog ownership, many homeless people were still forced to choose between their pets and housing.
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It’s not clear how many people have been forced to choose between their pets and housing, but less than 10 per cent of private landlords currently advertise pet-friendly properties.
In January, the Government published its updated model tenancy agreement, a template that can be used by landlords when renting out a home, with a new clause making consent for pets the default position.
Ministers hope this will allow “responsible” tenants with well-behaved pets to secure leases more easily but campaigners are fighting to make these new measures legally binding and ban blanket “no pets” clauses in rented accommodation and leaseholds.
Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, has introduced a bill in the House of Commons – dubbed “Jasmine’s Law” after Jordan’s dog – to support tenants with pets.
Rosindell said no one should have to give up their animals and every family who would like to have a pet should be allowed to do so provided they are responsible owners.
“Animals are very important to people’s lives,” he told The Big Issue.
“To lose an animal for many people is like losing a member of the family.
“It can have devastating effects on people’s lives, so I think that the law has to change and the balance has to be put firmly towards the owner of the property to give justification why an animal cannot be allowed to live with its owner.”
Too many families and individuals are cruelly separated from their beloved pets because of unnecessary policies in rented accommodation https://t.co/D31qYqoJrF
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Jasmine’s Law has cross-party support and has been backed by animal welfare charities including the RSPCA, Battersea, Dogs Trust, Cats Protection and Dogs on the Streets.
But it’s unlikely to become law without Government support and as a ten-minute rule bill, it has already faced its first set back.
Due to Covid restrictions in the Commons, Friday sittings have been suspended, preventing parliamentary time for the bill to proceed.
After the bill’s second reading was delayed, Rosindell will now be joined by The Society for Companion Animal Studies, the FOAL Group and Battersea this week in an online conference call to scrutinise the bill informally and keep the issue on the agenda.
“This is not a Conservative proposal, it’s coming from a Conservative MP but there are MPs from other parties that have signed up to my bill as well,” he said.
“I’ve already spoken to the minister for housing about it and [the Government has] already changed the model tenancy agreements.
“I’m hoping that the next step will be to actually put this into legislation and make it the law of the land.”
Rosindell added that the law needed to be updated to stop people from giving up their pets when faced with the difficult choice between their companions and housing, particularly during the pandemic.
“An animal is a living, breathing creature with feelings and attachment to its owner,” he said.
“It’s not just traumatic for the owner if they [lose] their pet but can you imagine the trauma for the animal, particularly dogs, being taken away from the owner that they love and who cares for them.
“I think that the current rules are cruel, they lead to horrible situations and I really hope that what I’m promoting here will lead to a better society and a better way of treating both humans and animals.”