When my sister left home to go to university, my parents decided to fill the daughter-shaped hole in their lives with a bouncing puppy. When my next sister left home three years later, clearly her presence was also missed, with our dog having six adorable puppies. A pet is more than just something we feed and play with. They are companions who unconditionally love us.
So with Labour’s recently proposed plan to make it more difficult for landlords to prevent tenants from having pets, the struggle to find a property that accommodates your dog or cat should become much, much easier. Those with pets who are already struggling to find a place that has the right features for a pet, such as size and an outdoor space, should find that this proposal makes the renting game less of a challenge. As a student currently looking for somewhere to live next year, trying to find a flat with a HMO license is difficult enough, so I can imagine the difficulties that come with finding one that doesn’t have the words ‘NO PETS’ written very explicitly in its advertisement.
This proposal is significant in that it finally recognises that pets are not nuisances, but are something meaningful to a large proportion of the population. Pet Food Manufacturer’s Association recently reported that nearly 1 in 2 households have a pet in the UK, so it’s clear to see that they are a part of many people’s lives. A pet is always pleased to see you and welcomes you home, even after a difficult day. Many studies have shown how the companionship of a pet is excellent for relieving stress and anxiety. In 2011, Cats Protection reported that 76% of people said that with their cat by their side, they found dealing with everyday life much easier. Instead of squeezing a stress ball, just stroking a cat can be relaxing. Even just talking out your worries to a pet who can’t respond, but can just sit and listen for hours, is perfect for relieving stress. During exam season, the university ran two “Paws Against Stress” events, with over 500 people interested in the event on Facebook. Even this week, the Glasgow University Dog Society had its launch night (which I sadly could not attend), proving that it is also students who crave contact with animals.
However, Britain does seem to have a pet problem. Dogs Trust reported that in 2015, 47,000 dogs were abandoned. This proposal could allow for a decrease in the amount of abandoned animals that are filling our animal shelters and rescue centres. Of course, some landlords may baulk at the idea of having hairy, untrained dogs in their properties, however tenants already put down a deposit which could go towards covering the costs of damages caused by their pet. We will all have heard by now that we millennials are screwed in terms of buying a property. If we wanted to buy a house today, we’d need an average £22,689 in savings as a minimum, a large rise from the minimum £7,600 needed in 2000 (Property Moose). This proposal allows us young people to have the company of a pet despite our financial and living situations.
Labour’s proposal acknowledges the important role our pets play in our lives. The proposal acknowledges also that pets are good for our wellbeing and mental health. They can help battle loneliness and help relieve stress. They’re companions for life. And for me, having just left the nest, clearly I am very missed at home, as my dog is having puppies once again. What does that say about the importance of pets?