Big Issue Vendor

It’s time to end unnecessary ‘no pets’ clauses in rented accommodation

Michelle Clark, founder of Dogs On The Streets, explains why we need to rethink pet clauses which separate people from the animals they love

John Chadwick had an unconditional love for his cat, Gizmo, and two dogs, Theo and Tinkerbell.  It was a love that could not be “fully expressed unless you had been there to experience it.”

They adored him as much as he did them, according to John’s friend of nearly a decade, Dee Bonnett. And they helped him to turn his life around.

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After overcoming issues with alcohol and a spell on the streets, followed by a near devastating relapse, John looked to be facing a happier future. Dee had got him a kitten, Gizmo, in 2009 feeling that John “needed a purpose” and a couple of years later, in 2011, he acquired his two Jack Russells, Theo and Tinkerbell.

For a number of years he lived in Maidstone, had a close network of friends and is described by Dee as being “one of the most grounded people” she knew who was “loved and respected by all who knew him.”

In Christmas 2016, tragedy struck. John was served with an eviction notice. He was unable to take his beloved pets with him due to “no pets” policies. The council, in Dee’s words, overlooked “his previous homeless issues, addiction and the therapeutic benefits his furbabies gave him.”

She continued: “He needed them to wake up to and go home to at the end of each day, they gave him a routine, were a great source of comfort, and impacted positively on his mental well-being.”

Three months later, John died by suicide just 10 days after being separated from his furbabies, his lifeline.

Too many families and individuals are cruelly separated from their beloved pets because of unnecessary policies in rented accommodation

John’s case, and the wider issue of “no pets” policies, including their impact on the homeless, will be mentioned in a speech on October 14 by Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford. Andrew will be outlining legislation to bring an end to blanket “no pets” clauses.

Because too many families and individuals are cruelly separated from their beloved pets – their furbabies – because of unnecessary “no pets” policies in rented accommodation. Homeless people are forced to choose between shelter and companionship, but everyone who is moving into rented accommodation could be faced with this situation.

That’s why at Dogs on the Streets we whole-heartedly endorse Andrew’s proposed bill. We have worked for years on this issue, offering 24/7 support for dogs and their homeless owners. Working tirelessly, our aim is to find permanent accommodation for rough sleepers and we regularly represent clients and their dogs with services and borough councils.

Andrew’s bill, “Jasmine’s Law” is a bold but sensible plan to find a solution. It will require prospective renters to demonstrate they are responsible owners with a suggested checklist including a vet’s confirmation that their pet is vaccinated, spayed or neutered, free of parasites and responsive to basic training commands in the case of dogs.

In cases where the renter can prove they are a responsible owner, and the accommodation is suitable for their pet, the right to take a pet into rented accommodation would be assumed.

This is important legislation which is backed by not just Dogs on the Streets but also the RSPCA, Battersea, and Cats Protection. It will provide hope and reassurance to all pet owners who may be moving into rented accommodation in the coming months and years, homeless or not.

On its own it is unlikely to pass. We hope, however, it will gain the publicity it deserves, and ensure that a tragedy like John’s never happens again.

Image credit: livenature/Flickr