Keeping pets by luckboy


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Issue 11 Autumn 2006

The newsletter of the Advice, Information and Mediation Service (AIMS) for private retirement and sheltered housing

Inside this issue
Elizabeth’s cats vs George’s dog – case study - p4 New from AIMS - p5 New from Books - p5

Keeping pets
– the pros and cons
Following a number of calls to AIMS’ helpline concerning pets and pets policies, we have decided to devote this edition to the subject. We would like to feed back some of the anecdotes and stories we have been told about, and to look at the main issues. on keeping pets in private retirement and sheltered housing. A draft copy is available to download from the ‘pets policy’ section of our website. Feedback would be welcome.

Annual Conferences - p6 At the same time, AIMS is producing a Good Practice Guide

Is your property ready for the DDA? Have you made ‘reasonable adjustments’? New legislation to be enforced in Dec 2006.
See page 4 for more details

Should residents be allowed to keep pets?
AIMS is an impartial service and we acknowledge that there should be choice.
Some residents and staff members will positively prefer ‘no pets’ accommodation for a variety of reasons. AIMS has recently facilitated a residents association in clarifying the rules relating to pets and strengthening the housing provider’s pets policy in leasehold accommodation, where the majority of residents did not want pets on site. However, for many older people either considering moving to or already in private retirement and sheltered housing, a ‘no pets’ policy may cause great distress. It may mean giving up, or not being able to replace, a much-loved pet.

“One lady did not talk but when we put Vroom next to her, she just stroked him and her smile really lit up the room.”
A Pets As Therapy volunteer reporting on her cat, Vroom.

‘It cannot be right for older people to be forced to choose between ensuring that they can keep their pets, the prospect of their beloved pets being destroyed or placed in other care and rehomed if they are lucky, and the desire to move into more appropriate sheltered or residential accommodation.’
Paul Burstow (MP for Sutton and Cheam), 29 July 1998 ...continued overleaf

...continued ‘Should residents be allowed to keep pets?’ A study undertaken for the Anchor Housing Trust estimated that 140,000 people are being forced to give up their pets annually because of housing regulations. Some pet owners even avoid visiting their GP or continue to stay in accommodation that no longer meets their needs for fear of having to give up their pets. The health benefits of owning a pet have been well researched, and some are outlined on this page, and further highlighted in the AIMS good practice guide. For these reasons, we hope that schemes will give serious consideration to having a presumption in favour of residents keeping pets – but this must go hand-in-hand with robust policies and responsible pet ownership.

Health benefits of keeping pets
Research over many years has shown the benefits of owning a pet, including helping owners relax and reduce their stress levels, speeding up recovery after a major illness, and reducing their cholesterol level, blood pressure and heart rate, making them less prone to heart attacks.

‘Owning a pet can bring great happiness and studies have shown that pet animals can contribute significantly to general good health and reduced stress. In communal housing, such as retirement homes, pets offer companionship and friendship. We want to make sure that pet animals are welcome and well cared for and that their owners are aware of their responsibilities to their animals and to their neighbours.’
Roger Gale, MP, Chairman of Pathway, a pets and housing working group

‘Have feline and feeling fine’
In August 2005, Cats Protection published the results of their research, conducted by leading health psychologist, Dr June McNicholas, amongst nearly a thousand people from across the UK aged 55 to 80+. The findings confirmed the many psychological health benefits that cats, and other pets, can give us, according to Dr McNicholas: “We found that older people value their cats as companions, confidantes and a source of meeting others. Growing older can mean a degree of ‘social shrinkage’ in social networks. Cats can, amongst other things, help people to make friends – a factor well documented for maintaining psychological health”. Interestingly, the older the owner, the more significant the pet’s role was found to be in terms of assisting owners to feel young and healthy. The research found that respondents aged 70+ get out and about more often because of their cat, and one in four of all respondents said they had met people, including long-term friends, as a consequence of having a cat. Felines were found to be a great topic of conversation for their owners and others, too.

Responsible pet ownership
‘There are no such things as problem pets, only problem owners.’
Sheltered housing scheme manager It is good practice that residents should always be responsible for caring properly for their pet – or put arrangements in place for someone to help (to walk a dog, for example). An owner has responsibilities and duties to the pet to care appropriately for its needs, health

and wellbeing. They also have responsibilities to fellow residents, such as keeping their pet under control at all times, respecting any areas that are out of bounds, cleaning up after it, and paying for damage or injury caused by their pet. In certain circumstances, where cruelty or total lack of responsibility exists, or if the resident becomes increasingly mentally or physically unable to look after their pet, schemes may have to withdraw consent for the resident to keep their

pet. Policies should be clear about the criteria for enforcing this rule. AIMS has had feedback from residents that what they require is consistency of approach.

‘A healthy pet is a happy pet and a happy pet can help us enjoy a much fuller and more rewarding life.’
The Pet Health Council

Pets policies
AIMS recommends that all private retirement and sheltered housing schemes should have a clearly defined, written policy on keeping pets, even if it is ‘no pets allowed’. The AIMS good practice guide details the issues that need to be considered, including guidelines for responsible pet ownership, keeping records and what to do in the case of complaints or nuisance. As one estate manager said, ‘With the best will in the world you cannot make rules for every situation’. But without any rules, things can go badly wrong: A housing association fed back to AIMS that they used to have a ‘no pets in blocks of flats’ policy but, in consultation with residents, relaxed this in 2000 by allowing pets, subject to certain conditions. Unfortunately, not all staff were sufficiently aware of the rules, such as residents having to sign an agreement before bringing a pet into their flat. Perhaps inevitably, this resulted in some owners not taking responsibility for the welfare and care of their pets, mostly dogs, which then caused problems for some of the other residents. As a result of all this, the housing association has now withdrawn their permission to allow pets in flats. Animals already in residence can remain, so long as they are properly controlled, but no new pets can be brought in and current pets cannot be replaced when they die. Although the housing association had good intentions, failure to implement the policy by supporting it with robust internal procedures resulted in a disappointing outcome for all.

What motivates you to get up in the morning?
‘Taking the dogs walkies and meeting other animal owners.’ ‘My dog, Terry Wogan and alarm clock. Enjoying my dog and church activities. Swimming and yoga. A glass of sherry or whisky in the evening if I am at home alone – but am never at home alone cos I have my dog.’ ‘My dog motivates me first thing and I thoroughly enjoy a good walk. Helping others to keep fit and active.’

What helps you feel good and what is important to you?
‘My dog is most important.’ ‘Dogs give me friendship.’ ‘I think everyone needs someone/thing to love and cuddle and feel responsible for.’
Answers to the questions posed by the UK Inquiry into Mental Health and WellBeing in Later Life, an Age Concern/ Mental Health Foundation project.

Making things happen
Things do not always turn out as intended, but AIMS likes this anecdote for the demonstration of teamwork and what might be possible if staff have a ‘can do’ attitude. A major housing provider had a resident in extra care housing who wanted to keep rats, which was advised against for health and safety reasons (they would be allowed out of cages). He then wanted to keep a python, which was refused as it was a dangerous pet, especially if it got loose. So he asked for a non-poisonous/nondangerous snake, which was tricky, as it would involve someone else to help with the care and the storage of frozen rodents. But not impossible. At this point, perhaps many managers would simply have said ‘no’ again. However, staff pulled together. They spent a great deal of time researching safe snakes for him, and sorted the problem of frozen ‘food’. They allocated the resident a separate freezer to store the mice/hamsters – not only on the grounds of health and safety if he mixed his food with the snake’s but out of courtesy to care staff who had access to the food freezer to care for the resident. Other arrangements were being put in place, including a designated person to be able to look after the snake, and the details required in the pet records in case anything happened, when … he decided he wanted a lizard instead. Unfortunately, he could not get any friend/family member to help him with the care of it (he was not capable of looking after it himself) so it did not happen. In the end, he opted for a goldfish – which he still could not care for himself but his carers offered to help him, so there is a happy ending. Perhaps not the one anyone was expecting.

‘A pet can provide, in boundless measure, love and unqualified approval. Many elderly and lonely people have discovered that pets satisfy vital emotional needs.’
Professor Boris Levinson, 1969 Some housing providers have expressed concerns that they will be overrun with animals if they support a positive pets policy. Research undertaken for the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) shows that: “typically, only 10% to 25% of older residents in sheltered accommodation choose to have a pet. The majority are content to be animal ‘aunts and uncles’.” Their research has also shown that having a positive pets policy “is the most influential factor affecting choice of accommodation”.

Dealing with any complaints and resolving conflict
AIMS believes it is essential for each scheme to have a clear complaints procedure that includes what to do if there are complaints about pets. It is perhaps all too easy to state that if any pet causes a nuisance, the pet (and perhaps ultimately the resident) should be removed. Such an open policy may also leave the scheme open to complaints initially about a pet, but which are ultimately not about the pet but a personal dispute between residents. AIMS’ non-adversarial approach to resolving problems makes conflict less likely to arise. AIMS is able to help residents associations or scheme managers put together a complaints procedure. If disputes do arise, AIMS is also able to arrange a facilitated meeting or mediation to bring the disputing parties together and, hopefully, resolve the situation amicably, with a solution acceptable to both sides.

Case Study
AIMS included the following example of a mediation in issue 8 of Resolve. However, as it involves pets, we felt it appropriate to summarise it again here:
Elizabeth kept two cats, one of which was exceptionally timid. George kept a small dog. Elizabeth complained to the scheme manager that when George let out his dog, it chased her cats and the timid one disappeared for hours, sometimes days on end, which left Elizabeth very upset. She suspected George was doing this on purpose, either because he didn’t like her or because he didn’t like cats. She wanted the scheme manager to instruct George to stop his dog chasing her cats.

Clearly the situation could have been resolved, at least on the surface, by requiring George to keep his dog on a leash and adhere to the landlord’s pet policy. However, this would not have addressed the central issue – that Elizabeth thought George was acting deliberately and maliciously. AIMS mediated. There was a full exchange of views by each party, which established that George did not hate cats and was not intentionally trying to upset Elizabeth. Indeed, he was quite distressed to learn that Elizabeth thought he was deliberately trying to upset her, as he did not even realise that his dog was frightening the cats. Elizabeth and George agreed to let their pets out at different times of the day.

New legislation
The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA 2005)
From December 2006, section 13 (Housing) of the DDA 2005 will make it a legal requirement that anyone renting or selling a property cannot discriminate against a disabled person. The Act requires that ‘reasonable adjustments’ are made. In terms of the focus of this newsletter, this would include waiving a ‘no pets’ policy for a disabled person with an assistance dog. The delay in implementing this section has been to give landlords and property owners time to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, which they have a duty to make to policies, practices and procedures. The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) advises that, as well as waiving a ‘no pets’ policy, this might also involve “changing a term in a lease prohibiting the making of any alterations where the term makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to enjoy the premises or to make use of an associated benefit or facility (regulations will spell out the circumstances in which it is always reasonable for a landlord to have to change a term in a lease)”. Landlords and property owners will also have a duty to take reasonable steps to provide an auxiliary aid or service (if related to the use of the premises). DRC advises that this would cover things such as “providing accessible copies of contracts and rent statements for a tenant with a print disability; and providing a clip-on receiver which vibrates when the door bell rings for a tenant with a hearing impairment”. Further details can be obtained from the DRC website:

Animal welfare law to be updated
The Animal Welfare Bill is currently before Parliament. Subject to parliamentary business, it is hoped that the Bill will receive Royal Assent in October/ November 2006, which would enable it to enter into force in April 2007. The legislation will require people to look after their pets properly, in line with best animal management practices. It will also re-define the offence of cruelty, increase the range of sentences that courts can use, strengthen measures on animal fighting, and ban mutilations such as docking the tails of dogs.

New from AIMS

AIMS’ new website layout
We are continuing to develop the AIMS website. We recognise that, whilst many of the services we offer to people both living and working in private retirement and sheltered housing will be the same, others will not. Consequently we have developed two routes into the website, depending on whether you are a resident or someone working in these types of housing. This will be constantly revised and updated. Please take a few moments to look – and to give us your feedback. We want to know what you think – and whether you find the new layout better (or worse – we welcome criticism, too, as a complaint is a gift). We value your contribution and any suggestions for improvement:

Right to Manage – AIMS’ new ‘Good Practice Guide’
As outlined previously in Resolve, the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 introduced a new right, the Right to Manage (RTM). It allows a group of leaseholders in a block of flats to form a company (RTM Company), which can take over responsibility for carrying out or arranging the management of their block. With the help of a grant from the Housing Corporation, AIMS has now published a Good Practice Guide on RTM. This guide is intended to ensure that any decision to proceed with the RTM is carefully considered and made on wellinformed grounds. Once a decision is reached to proceed with RTM, it should also help ensure that all necessary systems and procedures are in place, and that everything is carried out in an appropriate, just and equitable way by all parties involved. Hard copies of the guide are available on request, and it can also be downloaded from our website.

New books from Age Concern
Choices in Retirement Housing
AIMS is co-author of a new book which guides older people through the housing options available and answers common questions about retirement housing, including:
■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Your Rights 2006-2007:
A guide to money benefits for older people by Sally West
Each year, pensioners lose out on up to £1.1 billion in unclaimed benefits. Your Rights ensures that older people – and their advisers – can easily understand the complexities of state benefits. The book is divided into five parts, giving details about:
■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Making life easier if staying in your own home; Choices in retirement housing; Living in retirement housing; Renting retirement housing; Leasehold retirement housing; Legal rights and services.

Complete with case studies and useful contacts, this book provides all the vital information needed to help people make an informed decision. The book covers England only. Price: £9.99 + p&p ISBN: 0862424135

Pensions and retirement; Financial help for people on a low income, including Pension Credit; Benefits for disabled people and their carers; Types of financial help, including the system for paying for care; Sources of national and local help.

Price: £5.99 + p&p ISBN: 0862424151

To order, please telephone 0870 44 22 120 or via the online bookshop:

The policy forum goes upmarket

AIMS’ new annual conferences
at Woburn House Conference Centre, London
As a result of feedback from last year’s policy forums, AIMS is delighted to announce its new annual conferences, at an exciting new venue, and with an excellent line-up of speakers at both our sheltered housing and leasehold conferences. They run for a full day each, including upmarket refreshments. The topics are relevant and timely. Contact AIMS or check our website for details.
Places are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Complaints handling
Wednesday 8 November 2006 Aimed primarily at the leasehold sector but of interest to all, speakers will include:

Health and housing
Monday 20 November 2006 Aimed primarily at the sheltered housing sector but of interest to all, speakers will include:

Siobhan McGrath, Chief Executive, Residential Property Tribunal Service (RPTS) Rafael Runco, Deputy Ombudsman, Housing Ombudsman Service Christine Mullen, Customer Services Manager, Peverel Brenda Metcalfe, Complaints Manager, Anchor Trust Ben Young, Chief Executive, Retirement Lease Housing Association (RLHA) Dave Walker, Mediator, Southwark Mediation Centre Booking details The cost of each conference is just £100 + VAT. The price includes teas, coffees and lunch. The conference runs for a full day, 10am to 3.30pm. Places are limited, so to register your interest, please contact AIMS: Please note there is an additional 5% discount for payment with registration.


Denise Gillie, Learning and Service Improvement Manager, Housing LIN, Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP) Anthea Tinker CBE, Professor of Social Gerontology, King’s College London Elizabeth Bartlett, Counsellor, Salisbury Branch, Alzheimer’s Society Caroline Oliver, Regional Communication & Information Officer, RNID Michele Hollywood, Marketing Director, Hanover Housing Association Michele Lee, Mediator, Ealing Mediation Service & Project Manager, Mental Health Inquiry, Age Concern England










AIMS’ subscribers are entitled to a 50% reduction in the attendance fee – only £50 + VAT.

AIMS is Age Concern’s Advice, Information and Mediation Service for people living and working in private retirement and sheltered housing
Benefits of subscribing to AIMS
Whilst core services are delivered free of charge to people living and working in sheltered and private retirement housing, a subscription to AIMS provides management and staff, and their residents, with access to an enhanced range of services. These include: detailed casework, unlimited mediations and facilitated meetings to help resolve disputes, one free training workshop for housing management staff per year, attendance by AIMS’ staff at housing management or resident meetings to discuss dispute resolution services and share knowledge, and a preferential invitation to AIMS’ annual conference, as well
Age Concern England, Registered Charity No. 261794

as a 50% reduction in the attendance fee. For more information about subscription, please visit ‘Subscribe to AIMS’ on our website or contact AIMS’ new Development Officer, Sue Henning, on 020 8765 7465.

excess of this, there may be a charge. Please contact us for details. The newsletter is also available in electronic format (.pdf) at no charge and can be downloaded from our website.

Contact AIMS
Tel: 020 8765 7465 Lo-call helpline: 0845 600 2001 Fax: 020 8765 7218 Email: Resolve Editor: Sue Henning AIMS, Age Concern England, Astral House, 1268 London Road, London SW16 4ER
210_806 Resolve 11 / 4,500

Ordering additional copies of the newsletter
Individual copies of this newsletter are available free of charge. AIMS’ subscribers are able to order additional bulk copies for circulation to staff and residents at no extra cost. Nonsubscribers may order up to 6 additional copies per issue at no charge. For orders in

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