I’ve always held an admiration for some parasites. They are tiny superheroes whose entire existence is to put in minimal effort to get the maximum out of living off others.
Owning pets means you do need to consider how to prevent them getting parasites and how to treat them if they arrive. In this blog I recall the horror of moving house to find some unwelcome guests who were not paying the mortgage!
Your pet or home having fleas doesn’t mean you are unclean or a bad pet parent… these guys are pretty indestructible check out how I coped read the original blog here
Christmas can be stressful for us all – including our pets. Check out my blog at Recruit4Vets
With over 40% of households having a pet in 2016 you would think that finding a place to live with a pet wouldn’t be that difficulty? If nearly half the households in the UK have a pet then finding a home that allows pets must be easy?
It seems that it isn’t, from personal experience and news stories it appears that by having a pet you become a second class citizen in terms of housing. You can expect to be limited in where you can rent or buy and be expected to pay higher deposits and extra fees.
This issue has been brought into sharp focus for me with the recent Grenfell Tower fire. There is the issue of moving your pet safely in an emergency. Then there is the issue of where you move to. The safety precautions being taken at other tower blocks has meant residents have been evacuated to emergency accommodation. Camden Council have provided pet friendly emergency options, which is fantastic.
I hope this sees a change in attitude towards pet owners and their housing needs. Currently there are a number of issues facing pet owners when finding a place to live. Whether you are renting or buying there are limits to the properties available to you if you have pets.
When renting a property you will be required to meet the criteria of the property owner and agent before you move in. There are many properties that automatically exclude pet owners. This may be because there is a clause in the original lease for the property or more commonly it’s in the rental contract from the owner or agent. This is usually because there are fears that pets can bring disruption in the form of:
- Noise for neighbours
- Damage to the property
- Fleas or other parasites left in the property
- allergy issue for future tenants
I feel there is sometimes the assumption that as pet owners we enjoy living in a flea infested noise hell! For the majority of pet owners this isn’t true, just as there are different living condition choices for those without pets.
While there as an element of the property owners own choice in what they put in a rental contract they cannot discriminate or be unfair. Therefore if you are trying to rent a property with a caged pet such as a hamster it could very likely be classed as unfair to refuse a potential tenant. However if it is a second floor small flat with no private outside space and you are asking to rent it with two springer spaniels then a landlord can fairly refuse a tenancy.
Having said that I have found often it is the letting agents who can make life difficult. On more than one occasion when trying to find a rental flat I have had a letting agent suggest either:
- we “get rid” of our pets
- we lie to the landlord about the pets
- they alter the contract without telling the landlord
I was appalled about all 3 suggestions. Re-homing centres are filled with the results of these attempted deceptions. People either so desperate to get a place to live they re-home their pets, or lie and later lose their home and their pet.
Leasehold issues with buying flats
Buying a property is not always any easier
When I was younger I dreamed of 3 things, I would own my own flat, and have a car and most of all a dog. In my mind owning my own flat would be needed to get a pet. While it can be easier to get a pet when you own your home it is not always the case. Flats and some houses come with a lease or set of criteria about how the tenant or owner can achieve “quiet enjoyment” of the propert.
When buying a property check the freehold or lease for clauses or covenants that may preclude animals being kept there.
Particularly with flats you should get your solicitor to check the lease for any “no pet” clauses. This takes time and money. We have spent weeks waiting for a solicitor to send a copy of the lease to my solicitor, to read it and say there is a no pet clause. Even although the agent and solicitors were advised we would not buy with a no pet clause they assumed we would still go ahead. They were all shocked when we pulled out and the solicitor even said “get rid of the pets”.
There may be a clause that states you can have pets if you do not cause a nuisance to your neighbours. This is enforcing that pets come under the quiet enjoyment rights of living in a property.
What can owners do to help?
It is clear that the issues with having a pet in a property are linked to the possible issue they may cause. As a pet owner you can help yourself by taking a few simple steps.
Keep your pet up to date with vaccines and flea and worming treatment. You can provide a copy of your vet records to show your pet is registered with and regularly seen by a vet. This shows you are responsible.
You can write your pet a CV, as suggested by Dogs Trust on their excellent advice website for pet owners and landlords. The CV can include information on who cares for your dog while you are at work, or a reference from a previous landlord.
Where damage is the issue offering to pay a larger deposit can help. While I’ve always questioned the practicality of this – if my dog is going to chew off all the skirting boards 2 weeks extra rent is unlikely to cover the cost of repairing this – many landlords find this acceptable.
I would always advise to try and speak directly to the owner rather than the letting agent, or the management agent if buying. The typical estate agent wants as little work as possible to secure a sale or lease. Therefore if you are in an area of high demand they will try to find a way not to deal with pet owners. If you can speak to the people who actually make the decisions then you are more likely to negotiate a deal that includes your pets. In reality if you have pets you don’t want to move more than you have to and most people recognise this when you approach them.
We work every day to keep our pets safe. Avoiding certain flowers in the house for cats, stopping dogs scavenging bad food stuff on a walk. Carrying out preventative care such as flea and worming treatments.
That’s all great but what do you do in an emergency? The awful fire at Grenfell Tower in West London brings this to mind for me. As a city dweller with an indoor cat and a small dog what would I do if I needed to get out of my flat in a hurry and in safety for me, my pets and others? Although we all consider fire safety perhaps it’s time to stop and make a plan for what you would do if the worst happened.
As a vet nurse I have my fire training from work that says it’s very unsafe just to open the door and let the pets flee. Its stressful and unsafe for them and in the limited visibility of a fire could be a trip hazard to people. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, but letting your pets loose and hoping for the best isn’t the answer. Pets will be become as disorientated and stressed as we will in a fire and may not run to safety as you would wish. They are also likely to be a hazard to others escaping as with smoke there can be low visibility and dogs and cats can become trip hazards for people.
This raises what you might be able to do. There is the option to leave pets behind. I know I couldn’t do this, and it would slow my escape as each step would be a physical and emotional wrench. I might even get out of my flat, decide the fire doesn’t look so bad and go back to get them – this is not a good idea. You need to get out and stay out. If you are planning to take them with you then get prepared and make your decision and stick to it.
Moving your pets safely
How do you do this? With pets that don’t want to go in their carrier at the best of times how will you do this in a time of stress? Do you even have the carrier to hand and how easy is it to move quickly with a bulky cat basket hitting your knees?
Many years ago I pondered this. We had two cats and lived on the second floor. I was also nearly finished my vet nurse training and had notes and caselogs in abundance. This was before electronic backups so it was a paper copy, and for one night I had all the paperwork at home – normally it was safely spread across work, college and home. This focused my mind and I told my boyfriend that if there was a fire he had to get both cats as I would be getting my paperwork. How was he to handle two cats, including one who didn’t like him that much?
We found out about advice for New York pet owners – use a pillow case! You can put your cat or small dog in the pillow case and put a loose knot in the top. Your pet is safe, and it’s easier to carry than a basket, and there’s always a pillow case close at hand. It means you can carry your pet with one hand, leaving the other free for handrails, ladders, or helping others. You can also pass the pet to people outside the building and free your hands up to escape.
It was such a great idea we put two spare pillow cases under our beds. One slightly larger as The Flump was a bit of a hippo, but that’s another story.
Evacuation – be prepared
Prepping for evacuating your pet for disasters is a whole other blog – food supplies, meds, you need a stock for you and your pet – for everyday tragedies like home fires just plan to get out and stay out.
There have been advances from the pillow case advice all those years ago. There are now pet evacuation sacks that provide a stronger and slightly larger ‘pillow case’ effect. If you need to evacuate quickly then you and your pet can do so safely.
If you can prep just a little have a few days food, a small water bottle and your pets vaccines and identification and insurance details. Hopefully your pet can stay with you, but if they need to go to a kennel or cattery and your vets isn’t open then having all their details will make life easier for you at that moment.
It’s also worth considering having a spare harness/collar and lead ready, even for cats. Once out of the house it may be safe to have them out of the pillow case and they still need to be under control.
My first advice on pets in an emergency was from New York and there is still great advice there. If you want to prepare a little further there is a pet emergency plan to download and fill in.
A purpose made pet evacuation sack or a pillowcase is not going to be the answer to all the problems in a quick escaepe so please read this from London Fire Brigade and watch the short video. The advice is relevant for any quick escape. While the Grenfell Tower tragedy has highlighted the urgency for fire related issues in recent times close to me there have been three floods from water mains, an evacuation from an unexploded WWII bomb and a gas leak. All are reasons for needing quick, safe escapes from home.
A few minutes planning now could save more than one life if the time comes.