By Randi Milgram & Michelle Strauss, Companion Animal Special Interest Group co-chairs
This past week, we joined with the Animals & Society Institute (ASI) in the United States in celebrating Human-Animal Relationship Awareness Week. ASI studies and promotes human-animal relationships with the aim of honouring and raising awareness of the importance and variety of these relationships, highlighting benefits and potential problems “in order to create safer and more compassionate communities for all – people and animals.”
In the UK, the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) has been promoting the study of human-companion animal interactions and raising awareness of the importance of pets in society since 1979. Their website (below) is a font of knowledge about the human-animal bond, including research around the benefits of pets to older people, children, people at risk, and those with diverse needs.
Dr. Elizabeth Ormerod, the SCAS chair, has been campaigning for years for local authorities and governments to reflect this bond in outdated housing laws and tenancy agreements that permit blanket ‘no pet’ policies in tenancy agreements.
On November 23, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Ormerod and Sarah Dixon (solicitor and director, Focus on Animal Law) who will be discussing, respectively, the research around the human-animal bond and the campaign for law reform to reflect this in a proposed new law that would outlaw blanket bans in tenancy agreements.
The Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill, introduced by MP Andrew Rosindell, would prevent landlords from banning ‘responsible owners’ from keeping pets in rental housing. In his speech to Parliament, Rosindell described the unjust way current housing laws force people to be separated from their companion animals. Especially poignant is the concern for pet owners who are housing insecure: forcing them to choose between shelter and their beloved companion can have devastating consequences, and is something you would think would not be such a rampant problem in a nation as advanced as this one.
The Bill also includes safeguards for landlords, which may go some way to assuaging landlords’ concerns. The legislation would require tenants to provide such materials as: proof of pet’s vaccinations; spaying/neutering of pet; responsiveness to basic training commands, in order to be considered a ‘responsible pet owner.’
A-law’s Companion Animal Special Interest Group is pleased to support reform of housing laws to address the injustices that arise with blanket no-pet policies that do not allow for individual circumstances. Such policies push a greater number of pets into the rescue system, surrendered against their owners’ wishes and increasing the burden on already stretched re-homing services. It seems to us that the current law does justice to neither people nor their pets.