Notes from SCAS Chairman, Dr. Elizabeth Ormerod

Written for the SCAS Spring Newsletter.

Pets in Housing Update

The International Pets in Housing Steering Group (IPHSG) created by SCAS to address pets in housing issues on a global scale is making good progress. We are very fortunate to have secured the support of Holly Dalby, an MSc student from Stirling University, who is helping us to identify knowledge gaps regarding pets in housing.  

SCAS Pets in Housing Workshop, ISAZ, June 18th Edinburgh

This will take place within the ISAZ Conference which runs from 15th-18th June.  Across the globe differing policy, practice, and cultural attitudes pertaining to pets in housing have created a broad range of protocols towards pet keeping. Progressive governments have enacted pet inclusive legislation. Sadly, in many countries it can be difficult to find pet friendly housing. The consequences are serious and far reaching, yet still poorly understood by those who are in a position to effect positive change. In this workshop we will collate information from the international delegates which will further inform current work of the IPHSG. Holly Dalby, currently reviewing pets in housing research papers and protocols, will provide an update and we will summarise the global situation. Delegates will be empowered to act as advocates for pet inclusive housing.

Older People’s Housing Taskforce

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Department of Health and Social Care, have announced that Professor Meyer, a leading expert in care for older people, will chair a new task force for Older People’s Housing Taskforce. The taskforce will work across housing, heath, and care sectors to drive an increase in the volume and range of housing options and make recommendations to the Government. It will run for up to 12 months and will produce an independent report to DLUHC and DHSC Ministers, with interim findings available after 6 months. The panel is expected to include up to 14 members with expertise from the social and private retirement sector, local government, adult social care, and from investors and developers. Professor Meyer co-founded My Home Life, an international collaborative initiative to promote quality of life in care homes for older people. A former nurse, she has led research in care for older people at City University of London for 23 years. During her career, she worked in a variety of different settings (health, social care, and housing; general and mental health; primary, secondary, and tertiary care). This work will be taken in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, building on the commitments set out in DHSC’s adult social care reforms today.

*The My Home Life report included several references to AAI and resources.

My Dog Is My Home’s Virtual Co-Sheltering Conference March 21-23. 

Kris Hill and Holly Dalby both represented SCAS at the My Dog Is My Home’s Virtual Co-Sheltering Conference March 21-23.  

National Pet Month

SCAS provided articles throughout April.

Advocacy Requests

Australia  SCAS support was requested for a nursing home resident in Brisbane who has been told she must get rid of her dog due to behavioural issues. More information was sought and we forwarded resources including the SAFE Toolkit, funded by SCAS, and our Code of Practice.  I reached out to Janette Young who produced the SAFE Toolkit and to other Australian colleagues on our International Pets in Housing Steering Group. I also advised that the situation be assessed by a veterinary behaviourist.  We await an update.

Wales Joy, a lady living in long term rental accommodation contacted us when told by her landlord to relinquish her dog or be evicted. I called Joy for more information and she learned that she had lived in the property for many years during which time she had kept three dogs.  There had been no complaints. Munchy, the Jack Russell she had adopted from rescue, was blind – Joy had adopted her as she had experience of caring for a blind dog. When asked about the nature of their relationship – I was astonished to learn of Munchy’s amazing abilities. Joy has a number of chronic illnesses, and Munchy makes a huge difference to managing these. Munchy alerts Joy to abnormal sugar levels and provides early warning to her epilepsy. Joy also suffers from bouts of severe abdominal pain. Munchy can also sense this and stays with Joy, comforting her. I was truly delighted to advise Joy that their relationship was secure – she could not be evicted as Munchy is an Assistance Dog!  In my 40 years of advocating such cases this was by far the easiest quickest to resolve as, in the UK, Assistance Dogs enjoy some legal protection – including that they have access to all housing.

Animal-Assisted Interventions, Education and Animal Welfare

Animal Assisted Interventions and Education Working Group

We have created a new working group – comprising Animal-assisted Interventions and Education. The first meeting of this new group was in late March, and we were joined by invited guests Dr Jane Fossey, Julie Milsom and Katie Bristow. Jane is a senior clinical psychologist and was a past Vice Chair of SCAS. Julie and Katie created People and Animals CIC and both run AAI farm-centred programmes in Hereford and Wisbech respectively. Jane, Julie and Katie were invited to attend as all have experience of developing standards in AAI and also in working with clients with poor mental health.  We discussed AAI/HAI volunteering roles for people with mental health.

NATAIS Working Group

SCAS was pleased to be invited to join the Nature and Animal Assisted Interventions (NATAIS) working group.  The first in-person meeting of this group of researchers and practitioners was held in Ghent in March. We worked in teams to discuss aspects of human-animal interactions that had been flagged up through a series of online questionnaires previously completed by our group. The subgroup to which I am contributing is examining ethical issues pertaining to animal welfare in HAI/AAI. Research pertaining to the role of HAI/AAI for adults with neurodegenerative diseases (NDD) is very limited. NATAIS aims to develop a research agenda for both fundamental and applied research regarding the improvement of care for people with neurodegenerative diseases, whether they are living in a care facility or in-place, especially in times of social isolation.

SCAS Webinars

How to be a happy dog owner: findings from research and practice, delivered by Professor Carri Westgarth in April was another really excellent presentation, based upon her book.

As I write this, I am looking forward to chairing Kris Hill delivering the next webinar tonight.  “Coddled Companions or Pet Prisoners? Understanding ‘pet parenting’ types in relation to the ‘indoor versus outdoor cat’ debate.” Whether to permit their cats access to the outdoors is a very vexed question for many cat owners.  

These monthly webinars are free to SCAS members, and to non-members for a small fee. The recordings are available afterwards if missed on the day. Great way to increase knowledge of the bond, and for achieving CPD.

Natural Healing: Ecology and Well-being Conference 1st March Dewsbury Minster, Yorkshire

This excellent conference was organised by SCAS member Angela Barker. Angela has developed a canine visiting programme, Canine Befrienders, in a psychiatric hospital. She asked me to give the keynote. I discussed the role of AAI in mental health from Ancient Times till present day. Other SCAS members who presented were Rebecca Leonardi of Paws for Progress, Belinda Johnston of Our Special Friends and Angela, Canine Befrienders. I went a day early to visit the psychiatric hospital where Canine Befrienders operates. I was very impressed by the standard of delivery they have achieved, using the SCAS Code of Practice.  I was shown the new AAI centre being built which will expand patient involvement in AAI activities. Canine Befrienders is an NHS AAI programme, which could be replicated elsewhere.

Canine Befrienders project – South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Jenny Stephany represents SCAS at Green Care Coalition meetings. GCC was recently provided with an update of our work.


Handbook of Human-animal Interactions and Anthrozoology should be published in the autumn. Sandra McCune, Debbie Rooks, myself and other members of the International Pets in Housing Steering Group have contributed a chapter – on pets in housing.

Special Issue Frontiers in Veterinary Science on The Links – Brinda Jegatheesan, Jo Williams and I are editing this special issue.  

I’ve just purchased “Understanding Animal Abuse & how to intervene with children and young people”, a practical guide for professionals working with people and animals. This is edited by Jo Williams and Gilly Mendes Ferreira.

And I’m looking forward to receiving “The Role of Companion Animals in the Treatment of Mental Disorders” co-edited by Nancy Gee which will be published at the end of May.

2nd African Conference in Animal Behaviour and Welfare: “Research practice and opportunities in animal behaviour and welfare”.

I attended this most excellent virtual conference organised by Dr Sunday Agbonika (pictured above). Vangelis Diamantakos, former SCAS Trustee was one of the presenters.

I am very proud of Dr Agbonika, his work is having a major impact especially in countries new to AAI and HAI. I and am honoured to be his mentor.

Elizabeth Ormerod, Chair of SCAS

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