Pet-friendly Wandsworth Sets the Standard

Cats and dogs in sheltered accommodation help elderly

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The council’s guidelines on allowing elderly sheltered residents to keep their pets should be adopted across the UK, the Commons has been told.

Unlike most landlords, Wandsworth has been permitting pets in sheltered accommodation since 2001 in a move designed to improve residents’ health and quality of life.

Feedback from residents and housing staff has been positive to date and the council is calling on other local authorities and housing associations to follow their example.

Council officials recently visited Westminster to brief politicians on the benefits of a pet-friendly approach to housing. Nick Palmer MP has presented a new bill to the Commons calling for a consistent nationwide policy on pets in care homes, based on the Wandsworth model.

Help the Aged, Age Concern, Pathway, Blue Cross, Society of Companion Animals (SCAS) and the Anchor Housing Trust also back the move.

Evidence suggests that keeping pets has profound benefits on the wellbeing of older people once they had left their own homes. There are currently around 15 dogs and 20 cats in council managed sheltered schemes.

Cllr Martin Johnson, Wandsworth’s executive member for housing, said, “We have clear defined regulations which have ensured elderly and vulnerable people can continue enjoy pet ownership while living in our accommodation. In nine years we have not had a single significant problem and the benefits have been enormous.

“Moving into a new environment can be a very stressful ordeal for elderly people and we are able to spare them the pain of parting company with their animals at this difficult time.

“As well as easing the transition, pets enrich elderly residents’ lives, encourage physical and social activity and help prevent isolation.”

One elderly resident said: “I would not get out as much if I did not have a dog. I take my dog out twice a day and have got to know lots of people in the area. It’s good exercise too”

Wandsworth introduced a pet friendly policy in 2001 following consultations with residents and housing staff. Pets are allowed in every type of council managed accommodation.

More recently Wandsworth made it a condition of all council tenancy and leasehold agreements that dog owners must microchip their animals and have their details logged on a borough-wide database.

The scheme is the first of its kind and is designed to make it easier to trace strays, crack down on dangerous dogs and reduce anti-social behaviour. So far Wandsworth has micro-chipped 690 dogs, and registered a further 391 that were already chipped.

Find out more about the micro-chipping scheme and other ways the council encourages responsible dog ownership at

July 14, 2009