Agenda item

Animals in Council Properties


The Strategic Lead Housing Operations introduced the report and stated that it outlined the Council’s new policy regarding pets in council houses. He stated that this was organised by the team who worked to manage and enforce terms and conditions set out within tenancy agreements. He explained that 4.4.2 of the current tenancy agreement ensured that tenants received written permission from the Council before getting a pet, and 4.3 outlined the anti-social behaviour clause. He explained that currently if a tenant did not get written permission to own a pet, they would be in breach of their tenancy agreement and the Council could seek an injunction through the court to have the pet removed. He explained that had only happened in serious cases where the pet had been a nuisance or was dangerous. He added that it had been difficult to evidence nuisance pets, for example it was hard to evidence barking dogs. The Strategic Lead Housing Operations moved on and stated that recent studies had been undertaken that had proven the benefits of owning pets, as they had been proven to reduce blood pressure and ease loneliness, which had been particularly important during COVID. He added that the government had therefore updated their model tenancy agreement in 2021, which ensured that consent for a pet was the default position of landlords within private rented accommodation. He stated that Thurrock Council were therefore following this best practice guidance and would re-consider the need for written permission to own a pet going forward. He summarised and stated that a written policy regarding pet ownership would be developed, and the standard tenancy agreement would be updated.

The Chair asked how many residents had signed an agreement to own pets. The Strategic Lead Housing Operations replied that he did not have the figure, but would circulate this information to the Committee after the meeting. The Chair moved on and queried how many dog breeders were living in council properties. She stated that some dog breeders were selling puppies for up to £5000 in poor conditions, and were unlicensed. The Strategic Lead Housing Operations stated that he was unaware of any licensed dog breeders operating in council properties, but this would breach their tenancy agreement as residents were not allowed to operate a business from their council property. He added that if officers found an unlicensed dog breeder they could follow a path of escalation, firstly through non-legal remedies and finally through the courts if necessary.

Councillor Redsell stated that she knew of some residents who had lots of cats or dogs in small properties and asked what could be done to ensure pets in council properties lived in good conditions. The Strategic Lead Housing Operations replied that officers could only take action if the pet was dangerous or a nuisance. He stated that the team worked closely with the RSPCA if they found a neglected animal in a council property. He stated that the tenancy agreements would be reviewed over the next few years and a pet policy would be implemented that would consider the issues raised by Members and would improve the guidelines for keeping pets. He stated that a pet policy would be developed and delivered during the next year.

The Committee agreed that the pet policy would be brought to the Committee as a briefing note, and would be distributed to every Councillor for their information.

RESOLVED: That the Committee:

1. Noted the contents of the report and commented on the following recommendations.

2. Reviewed the tenancy agreement terms and conditions relating to pets to better reflect good practice and the health and wellbeing benefits of keeping pets.

3. Established a pet policy to provide further guidance to tenants in keeping pets.

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