Charity’s report highlights Wandsworth’s pet friendly policies for tenants
Published: Wednesday 28th November 18
Wandsworth Council’s pet-friendly policy that allows council tenants to keep dogs has been hailed as a model for other town halls and social housing providers to follow by leading animal charity Battersea, formerly known as Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (BDCH).
In a report published this week, BDCH says that only one in four local councils in London allow all their tenants to keep dogs.
Some ban tenants from keeping dogs in flats, while others will only allow them to be kept in properties that have their own privately enclosed garden.
The BDCH report “Pet Friendly Properties” highlights Wandsworth’s balanced package of measures which ensures that while council tenants can enjoy the health and well-being benefits of dog ownership, there are systems in place to ensure dogs do not become a problem for other estate residents.
The report hails the borough’s tenancy conditions and “unique” housing estate byelaws, “enforced by a specially trained dog control unit” which they conclude “support a more pet friendly policy”.
Maizie lives on a Wandsworth housing estate with her owner 'Bubbles'
The charity also highlights the effectiveness of the council’s 2009 policy of compulsory microchipping which it said was seen as being “key to enforcing responsible dog ownership”.
The report continues: “Wandsworth was the first council in the country to introduce a compulsory microchipping and registration scheme for its tenants. Microchipping was seen as key to enforcing responsible dog ownership. As access to the national database was limited at that time, local records were kept to aid the speedy investigation and resolution of incidents.
“The information on the local database could be used to identify a particular dog and owner, and as evidence in their prosecution or to eliminate them from inquiries into an incident. It could also facilitate the return of lost, latch-key and abandoned dogs, and help in determining ownership in any dispute over an individual dog.
“To make the fastest possible progress in implementing this new policy, and to support tenants in obtaining permission to keep a dog, microchipping was and still is offered as a free service to tenants. It is carried out by the Council’s Animal Welfare Team (formerly the Dog Control Unit).
“The service has been recognised and commended by organisations such as Battersea Dogs & Cats Home and the Kennel Club and often cited as an example of best practice by the RSPCA.
“In 2011, a free neutering scheme was also introduced by the council to help manage the dog population on its council estates. The scheme is offered to residents when they get their dogs microchipped and registered.
“It is also strongly recommended to tenants whose dogs are becoming a nuisance, or it can be made a condition of being allowed to keep a dog. Since January 2009, when the new Conditions of Tenancy took effect, 3,576 dogs have been registered by the council and 300 dogs have been neutered.”
The BDCH report adds: “The general consensus is that the revised Conditions of Tenancy backed up by the threat of enforcement have led to a pet friendly policy that also enables better management of dog-related issues on Wandsworth’s housing estates.
Wandsworth’s director of housing Brian Reilly told the report's authors: “Wandsworth Council recognises the hugely positive impact that dogs and other pets can have within families and communities. We will continue to innovate our housing policy on animals to ensure our approach is rooted around the welfare of the animal and the promotion of responsible pet ownership.”
The council's cabinet member for housing Cllr Kim Caddy added: "Ours is a common sense approach that recognises the health and well-being benefits that owning a dog can bring to so many people, especially those who live alone. Our policy strikes the right balance between compassion and support for our tenants while at the same time ensuring responsible dog ownership."
The charity’s chief executive Claire Horton said: “Sadly we detect a trend of people being forced to choose between a home and their animals. Indeed, housing is now cited as the second biggest factor behind people giving up their pets to Battersea.
“The benefits of pet ownership are felt across society – from the £2.5 billion it saves the NHS annually, to the key role animals play in tackling loneliness and social isolation. Rescue shelters everywhere see family pets being relinquished and as the rental property market increases; even people and families wishing to bring a pet into their lives for the first time, are prevented from doing so by restrictive tenancy agreements - and this is ultimately to everyone’s detriment.
“We know that not allowing pets in rented accommodation as a truly wasted opportunity to affect positive societal change. We know that owning pets not only brings joy and genuine happiness to adults and children alike but also promotes increased senses of responsibility, empathy and compassion.
“The Battersea report highlights the widely varying picture across borough boundaries, with pet ownership being restricted in blanket fashion by some Councils and Housing Associations – essentially disenfranchising their tenants from the important benefits of pet ownership.
“This report lays bare the issues and seeks to offer solutions. Battersea would like to work with London’s social housing providers to help them all have more pet friendly properties, and offering assistance to help both Councils and Housing Associations create a better, more pet friendly capital to the benefit of all.”