Yesterday was National Pet Day. A frivolous occasion, you might expect to be marked with humour in a country famed for being full of animal lovers.
But pet ownership is on the decline in the UK, falling by 7% in the last 5 years. I believe much of this can be traced to the rise in renting.
The proportion of people living in the private rented sector has doubled over the last decade, as rising house prices coupled with stagnating wages have put the dream of owning a home out of reach for many, especially the young.
Around 5 million households, or 21% of the total are living in private rented accommodation, a quarter of whom are families with children.
Renting, is now often a stressful way of life, with renters without security knowing their landlord can raise the rent at the end of their tenancy agreement, evict them, and that they will pay the costs associated with moving.
In addition research indicates tenants are increasingly afraid to complain about poor conditions and disrepair for fear of eviction as landlords seek an ‘easier tenant.’
Pet ownership is another area (of many) where private tenants are denied opportunities taken for granted by homeowners and council tenants.
The benefits of pet keeping are well known.
For example they can offer relief from loneliness – a growing problem in the UK, which has been recognised as a health issue.
On an emotional level, owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety; health-wise, it can lower your blood pressure, improve your immunity and even decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Having pets teaches children responsibility, in the case of dogs can be a way of meeting new people and getting more exercise and fresh air.
Being excluded from keeping pets means private tenants are excluded from a traditional and beneficial part of British family life.
The expectation that tenants are not allowed pets, is part of the culture that persists where houses are seen as being the cash cow of the landlord rather than a home.
The fact that landlords have been allowed to ban pets is indicative of the way the UK sees landlords rights as more important than those of tenants: family life and childhood are second to the rights of profiteering.
In February, announcing plans connected to animal welfare, the Labour Party announced that when in power it will bring in an assumed right of tenants to keep pets in their home.
This may seem a minor policy, but I believe it will improve the quality of life for many people.