Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to establish rights to keep dogs and other animals in domestic accommodation; to make provision about the protection of the welfare of dogs and other domestic animals; and for connected purposes.
A home is where special moments are created—living with a family, friends or companions. Moving into a new home is a normal part of life, but what if every time you move you face the threat of being separated from someone you love? Can a house or a flat ever be a home if you are forced to abandon a family member just to move in?
You, Mr Speaker—an animal-loving Speaker—will know better than anyone that animals truly are members of one’s family. Having owned two Staffordshire Bull Terriers—Spike and Buster—I know how close the bonds between dog and owner can be and how devastating it is to lose them.
Dogs are more than man’s best friend: they are equal members of the family. For most people, being separated from their dog is no different from being separated from their brother or sister. Sadly, pet owners who move into rented accommodation face the reality that their family could be torn apart, because most landlords in Britain have unnecessary bans or restrictions on pet ownership. For those who depend on the companionship of their dog and need their loving friend to be with them—especially those who live alone—such restrictions are nothing less than discrimination, cruel to animal and owner alike.
My Bill would end that discrimination, giving people who own a dog or other domestic animal the right to have it live in their rented home, provided the owner demonstrated responsibility and care for the animal.
My Bill will henceforth be known as Jasmine’s law, after a Weimaraner who is owned by the Adams family in Surrey. Jasmine lives with Maria, but her son Jordan Adams would dearly love to accommodate Jasmine at his home apartment—if only for a few days or when his mother goes on holiday. Owing to restrictions imposed on tenants, Jordan is one of the millions of people across the UK who is prevented from having his beloved pet to stay with him.
Many pet owners are, like Jordan, devastated to find that moving out of the family home means being separated from an animal who is such an important part of their lives. The no-pet clause on rented accommodation means that someone cannot have a dog over for even a short period for fear of recriminations or even losing their home. Instead of a dog staying with a familiar person, often they must be placed in a kennel, which can be a deeply stressful and unhappy experience for the dog.
Such discrimination must now end. Some people who move to a new home are able to find somewhere for the animal to live, with trusted friends or family, but others are tragically forced to abandon their pets altogether, unable to find anywhere to live where the pet will be accepted. Sadly, these no-pet rules are cited by Battersea Dogs & Cats Home as the second biggest factor behind people giving up their dogs, with 200 dogs a year being handed in for rehoming simply because of landlord restrictions.
These rules have the cruellest impact on the homeless, with many relying on companion animals for support and affection while living on the street. Too often, when they are offered housing by local authorities or housing associations, this comes with a no-pet clause. If they turn down an offer of accommodation, they are told that they are making themselves intentionally homeless and refused further housing assistance. Take the tragic case of John Chadwick, a homeless man who ended his own life after the only housing option his local council provided was one that meant separation from his pets. It is surely time to end these no-pets clauses that have caused so much pain and heartache for so many people.
Of course, many landlords have legitimate concerns, which I do not want to dismiss lightly. It is true that irresponsibly owned pets can be a cause of damage, misery and suffering to the animals themselves, to the neighbours and to those who manage and own properties. We must therefore ensure that landlords’ concerns are met and that pet owners pass the test of responsible ownership by obtaining a certificate from a vet before moving in, confirming that they have a healthy, well-behaved animal and are considered to be a responsible owner. For a dog, a responsible ownership checklist would include being vaccinated and microchipped and being responsive to basic training commands, with appropriate rules applying, of course, to other animals.
I hope that landlords, local authorities and housing associations listening to this debate today will consider overhauling their current policies in favour of one along the lines laid out in the Bill, and consider more fairly the rights of millions of responsible owners across the land. Particularly at a time when so many people are isolated, being able to own a dog can be vital to a person’s wellbeing and, of course, to their mental health. If tenants can prove that they are responsible owners and that their pets are well behaved and appropriate for the accommodation, there is no reason to deny them the right to live together with their animal companion.
Microchipping is also a key element of my Bill, which will stipulate that all cats and dogs kept in rented accommodation must be microchipped. It will also be mandatory for vets to scan animals brought into their surgery, ensuring that they are with their rightful owners. This will have the added advantage of helping to find both lost and stolen dogs. I commend the amazing work of Debbie Matthews and the group that she founded, Vets Get Scanning, which has campaigned for this for over a decade and was championed by her late father, the great Sir Bruce Forsyth. Part of the approval process for a pet to be moved into accommodation would be to have their microchip scanned by a vet to ensure that they were registered on a national database.
It cannot be right that so many pet owners in this country face the harsh reality that finding a place to live might mean permanent separation from the animal they love so much. Surely, as we take back control of our laws, now is the time to ensure that this nation of animal lovers remains a world leader in animal welfare. If France, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland can outlaw blanket restrictions on pets in rented accommodation, why can we not do the same here in the United Kingdom? The Government’s intention to remove no-pet clauses from their model tenancy agreement is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. Jasmine’s law will replace the outdated and unfair no-pet clauses that many private and social landlords impose, setting out an alternative, streamlined system that will mean peace of mind for landlords, tenants and, of course, the animals themselves. At its core, my Bill represents the values of personal responsibility, individual rights and animal welfare, and today I seek to enshrine in law these important freedoms applicable to all responsible pet owners throughout the nation. I commend Jasmine’s law and this Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Andrew Rosindell, Robert Halfon, Andrea Leadsom, Mrs Sheryll Murray, Sir David Amess, Theresa Villiers, Henry Smith, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Chris Bryant, Tim Farron, Ian Lavery and Ms Lyn Brown present the Bill.
Andrew Rosindell accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 29 January, and to be printed (Bill 197).