Does the British Public Value the Welfare of Animals More Than The Homeless? By Kelly Grehan

Last year nearly 600 dogs died on the streets on the UK, whilst the number of dogs sleeping rough has increased by 168% since the tories took office in 2010.

Once a rarity, it is now common to see dogs sleeping in doorways, their fur matted, exposed to the elements and to see them searching through bins looking for discarded food to eat.  Lacking means to seek somewhere to live, these dogs, some little more than puppies often suffer from terrible health issues – both physical and mental and without major changes to the system it is hard to see how their situation can improve.

 Can it possibly be right for any dog to be sleeping outside?  Is it not shameful to imagine them being taunted, attacked and ridiculed as they attempt to sleep on our filthy streets up and down the country? Most police authorities do not record data on attacks on dogs, but a recent study by The Guardian gained data from nine forces in the UK which found there were 4,940 attacks recorded against homeless dogs increasing from 493 in 2014 to 1,259 in 2018.

The information in the paragraph above is all accurate…but… you need to replace the word ‘dog’ with the words ‘homeless people’ for it to be true!

I wrote the first section above in that style because I wonder if, the people discussed above were, infact,  animals, if their would be a stronger outcry and a more active response would be generated than it is for humans.

 

Despite the massive rises in homelessness since the tories came to power in 2010, Housing Secretary James Brokenshire recently said that government policies were not to blame and that homelessness is the result of ‘complex factors.’  

While no one disputes that there can be complicated reasons why someone can find themselves on the streets it make no sense why these complexities would have somehow disappeared under the previous Labour administration, only to return on an upward gradient upon the tories regaining office.  

Could the rise be the result of cuts to housing benefit and reduced funding for homelessness services, as well as a lack of affordable homes and regulation in the private rented sector, perhaps? 

In 1999 the Labour government announced its’ intention to eradicate the ‘scandal’ of homelessness. Beneath that objective, the government had put in place the right policy making apparatus to ensure it was delivered. 

The highly effective Louise Casey was appointed head of the Rough Sleepers Unit In December of that year a major report, Coming in from the Cold, set out the measures to reduce rough sleeping by two-thirds by 2002 – which it achieved.

It is nothing short of tragic that all the good work has been undone, not least for those who find themselves sleeping on the streets, but also for what this state of affairs says about us as a society.

Aside from rough sleepers – the visible sign of our failed society – there are all the other people for whom their housing situation continues to ruin their lives.  Having a job no longer insulates you from such problems – indeed the gentlemen who was rough sleeping who died just before christmas had a job!

82,310 households were in temporary accommodation in England, in December with more than 123,600 minors, marking 70 per cent increase since Conservative government came into power.  Shelter claim that 78% of the rise in homelessness over the last six years was due to people being evicted from privately rented homes, leaving them to try to find money for deposits and the other costs associated with moving with little warning or opportunity to save.  

We can only speculate at the impact their circumstances are having on the health, educational attainment and morale of these children.  

It is often said that a society should be judged on how it treats those most in need, most vulnerable and the weakest – there can be no doubt that this country must be judged wanting.

 

 

 

Private Renters Deserve Pets Too! By Kelly Grehan

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.