After a family were told their Kent housing estate was too violent for cats, we asked animal charities how to make housing pet-friendly

Dogs Trust explain their new campaign to encourage landlords to accept pets

As the UK’s largest dog welfare charity, Dogs Trust receives many calls from dog owners asking for help and advice when they are unable to find rented accommodation with their pet. Indeed, this is the third most given reason for people handing over their dogs to us.

The credit crunch is pulling the UK’s purse strings even tighter and we are developing Lets with Pets, a UK-wide campaign to encourage landlords to accept pet-owning tenants and to help owners find the elusive pet-allowing landlord, which will be launched in early 2009.

Here’s some advice on pet ownership for landlords and tenants.

Landlords: how to profit from pets

• A pet-friendly policy will make your property much more marketable. By rejecting all pet-owning tenants you are missing out on a huge slice of the tenant market!

• Once a tenant finds a landlord who accepts pets they are more likely to stay put – meaning longer, more reliable occupancy rates.

• Responsible pet owners are likely to be responsible tenants. They are aware of the scarcity of pet-friendly housing and are more likely to abide by all housing rules.

The key is to establish a clear pet-keeping policy:

1. Enforce a strict limit on the number of pets allowed.

2. Ask for proof that each pet is fully up to date with vaccinations and flea treatments.

3. Evaluate prospective tenants and their pets on an individual basis – ask to see the pet, talk to previous landlords and judge each case on its merit.

4. Do demand a reasonable additional refundable deposit to cover any damage caused by pets.

5. Consult your solicitor regarding adding an official addendum to your usual rental agreement. This should include details on deposits, obligations and responsibility.

Tenants: how to find pet-friendly accommodation

The following preparations may help you win over a prospective landlord:

Write a CV for your pet, so that your landlord can objectively consider if your dog may be suitable as a tenant. Also offer to bring your dog to meet them. Consider including the following points:

• Your dog’s breed, size, age and activity level.

• If your dog is a purebred, include the breed’s positive breed traits.

• Try to highlight your dog’s history of good behaviour.

• If your dog has attended and completed training classes.

• If your dog is neutered.

Responsible pet owners are likely to be responsible tenants. They are aware of the scarcity of pet-friendly housing and are more likely to abide by all housing rules.

Other information to give the landlord:

• How often and where you plan to exercise your dog. Make an assurance that you will be responsible and pick up any poop whilst out and that you will keep the garden free of droppings at all times.

• How often and how long your dog will be left alone on the property on a regular basis. It will help if you are able to state whether you will take your dog to work, arrange for day care or be at home with your dog most of the time.

• Stress that dogs are very effective as a burglar deterrent!

• Assure that your dog will be regularly groomed (as appropriate for coat type), and carpets and soft furnishings will be vacuumed and cleaned.

• How often your pet is treated for worms and fleas, and that he has had the relevant vaccinations. Supply the details of your vet, in case the landlord wants to contact them for a reference.

Essentials for both parties

• If the tenant and their pet have lived in rented accommodation before, get a written reference/recommendation from the previous landlord.

• Both parties should sign a ‘pet agreement’, which should be included (or at least referred to) within the main tenancy agreement. This should include points applicable to both parties – for example, the landlord must give sufficient written notice if he changes his mind about allowing pets, whilst the tenant must agree to ensure their pet is off the premises when maintenance work is being carried out.

• Set up an extra security deposit to cover any damage that the pet may do to the property.

...and the RSPCA tells us about its new award scheme for pet-friendly housing providers

Animal welfare is an issue close to the heart of the British public. In recent years we have seen its profile raised in all areas of life – from the passing of the Animal Welfare Act giving greater protection to animals from cruelty and neglect, to consumerism, with increased public interest in the ethical production of food, cosmetics and fashion.

Throughout this period of growth and change, local authorities in both England and Wales have continued to deliver services that directly or indirectly impact on animal welfare. However, the quality of these services - including regeneration and the provision of housing - is as diverse as the authorities themselves.

The RSPCA Community Animal Welfare Footprints is a new, voluntary scheme that aims to recognise those authorities that take steps to protect and improve animal welfare. There are four footprints, which each reflect a different area of local authority service provision. One of these is the Housing Footprint, which is open to local authorities, housing associations or arms-length management organisations (ALMOs).

There are three levels of footprint – bronze, silver and gold. These reward authorities that develop a considered pets-in-housing policy that is not simply a knee-jerk response to existing problems that have arisen through a weak pet policy or tensions created by an anti-social minority.

It is important that local authorities and organisations recognise pets can help people develop a social life and provide companionship, daily routine and exercise for owners. The RSPCA has therefore provided a number of points to be considered to help the various bodies formulate an effective pet policy.

The housing provider should have clear rules and procedures on issues including roaming and unattended animals – for example, owners who repeatedly allow their animals to stray.

Housing providers should also require that all tenants give details of any animals kept in their properties in case of emergencies such as evacuations, fire or flood.

The keeping of pets on balconies or communal walkways should be strongly discouraged, while housing providers should prohibit tethering or chaining as a method of managing any animal on any land under their control.

It is also imperative that all empty properties, especially recently vacated properties, must be checked by the housing provider for abandoned pets.