SCAS Mental Health Working Group Update – Autumn 2020

The group continues to examine issues around mental health, pet ownership and assistance animals.

We want to share with you a current case which is very concerning. Simon (not his real name) suffers with mental health issues and has previously been hospitalised. His landlord is a mental health charity. He recently adopted a rescue dog and has just received a letter stating he has 14 days to relinquish his dog or be evicted.  His neighbours have pets and Simon knows of no neighbour complaints. Fortunately, Simon has a supportive friend who knew of SCAS and has asked us to advocate on his behalf, which we are doing, with Simon’s permission.

The MHWG is actively examining pets in housing issues. Of the many aspects of human-animal interactions that SCAS has addressed, pets in housing is the most frustrating. Given the documented health and social benefits accruing from pet ownership, and the fiscal savings consequent to this, and also from the social capital effect which positively influences community behaviour; and considering the traumatic effects of forced pet relinquishment and the resulting animal welfare  issues, one would not expect such resistance to positive pets in housing legislation. Dr Elizabeth Ormerod, our Chair, has stated that in her veterinary career which spanned 40 years, the most distressing cases she had to address were those related to pets in housing. Animals involved in accidents such as poisonings, road accidents, drownings etc were extremely distressing. But the action of landlords to enforce people to relinquish their animal companions caused greater distress than these other tragic incidents. Only in the most exceptional circumstances where there are real threats to animal welfare, or human health should people and pets be separated. Elizabeth and her husband, also a veterinary surgeon, used a staged approach with landlords who operated no pet policies, denying vulnerable people the right to keep their pets. They started with persuasion, then employed more pressure until the landlord allowed their clients to keep their animals. 

We have some good news to report on pets in housing:

Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill, a Ten Minute Rule Bill was introduced by Andrew Rosindell MP on 14 October. The full title of this bill is “A Bill to establish rights to keep dogs and other animals in domestic accommodation; to make provision about the protection of the welfare of dogs and other animals; and for connected purposes.” The second reading of the Bill will be on January 29th. This bill would make it illegal for landlords to prevent responsible pet owners from keeping well-behaved pet in rented accommodation. We anticipate that this will receive strong cross-party support as a similar proposal is in the Labour Party’s Animal Welfare Manifesto. 

SCAS submitted resources to Andrew Rosindell’s office, and we will continue to provide support.

This is the link to the first reading of this Bill.

NOAH (National Office for Animal Health) is establishing a coalition of organisations to coordinate lobbying for pets in housing legislation. SCAS, of course, will play a role in this.

SCAS Online Pets in Housing Library SCAS is collating materials pertaining to pets in housing to establish a new SCAS online library on this topic. Please share any relevant research papers, details of legislation, protocols, case studies etc with us.  At the recent IAHAIO AGM, SCAS put out an international call for such materials.

Maidstone Borough Council has introduced a new Pet Policy for Temporary Accommodation. Please follow this link to read about how this was achieved through the dogged determination of Dee Bonett who lost her friend John Chadwick to suicide when he was forced to relinquish his pets.  Read more here…

The Hope Project was founded by Colette Kase, a former SCAS Trustee who herself had been a homeless pet owner. Colette is now living in Mexico and we very recently reconnected through FaceBook.  Read an article by Colette here…

The Pathway Guidelines SCAS is currently revising and updating this excellent documentwhich provides detailed guidance about pets in housing issues. A big thank you is extended to Dr Anne McBride on leading this important and timely initiative.

The US organizations the Association for the Advancement of Animal Welfare and the Humane Society for the United States (HSUS) have launched an Eviction Response Toolkit. Due to the downturn in the economy in the USA 30-40million renters face eviction, and 72% have pets. There is much in this toolkit that can be adapted by UK organisations.

Gizmos Law & Tuks Law

James Daly MP recently presented a Ten Minute Rule Bill to the House of Commons named: PETS (MICROCHIPS)

The Bill has two strands. Tuks Law: To make it a legal requirement that vets are required to scan for rescue backup contact details (i.e. a former owner or the breeder) and contact them to enquire as to whether they would like to take ownership of the pet and also to confirm the person presenting the animal is registered on the microchip prior to euthanising a healthy or treatable animal.

To summarise, no healthy or treatable pet can be euthanised by a vet without having its microchip scanned first, no pet can be destroyed without the expressed permission of its registered owner (which can be found by scanning the chip), all other options of rehousing a healthy or treatable pet have been exhausted before euthanasia  (no other backup contact details can be found on the chip).

Note from our Chair, Dr Elizabeth Ormerod. Our members may be shocked to learn that veterinarians are sometimes presented with animals for euthanasia, when there is no valid reason for this. We term this  unwarranted euthanasia or convenience killing. Very careful consideration and assessment is needed when people request euthanasia of an animal, including being sure that this is the owner. I developed and delivered workshops for veterinary undergraduates on how to address these situations. During these workshops it transpired that vet students in most universities had already witnessed such scenarios during extramural studies. The most common situation is of a “revenge killing” to get back at a partner following relationship breakdown. Therefore, confirming ownership in these cases is still not a sufficient safeguard. Our veterinary practice policy on euthanasia stated that we would not euthanise healthy animals. We worked with the owners to find suitable alternatives.

Gizmos Law:  To make it a legal requirement for all Local Authorities to scan a microchip of a deceased cat in order to return it to the registered owner before it is either cremated or placed on landfill, it will also ask for all local authorities to notify ‘Deceased Cats UK’ when a deceased cat is discovered without a chip in order for them to reunite them with their owners.

To summarise, no deceased cat can be cremated or sent to landfill without all attempts being made to reunite it with its owner.

Note from our Chair: this is also extremely important. Many cats go missing and some are killed in road accidents. If people know that their pet has died, they can have closure. Without this information, they will continue to search, possibly for many months and remain in a state of high distress.


SCAS was one of seven organisations that founded The International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organisations (IAHAIO) in 1991 at the International Conference on Human-Animal Interactions on Montreal. Our then Chairman Dr Dam Ahmedzai was elected as its Founding President. From those seven organisations, IAHAIO now has over 100 member organisations spanning the globe. SCAS has maintained strong links with IAHAIO since its inception. Elizabeth Ormerod, SCAS Chairman, is the current Vice President for Membership. And Jo-Ann Fowler, past SCAS Director is now IAHAIO’s Director.

Human-animal interactions are now widely recognised as providing many benefits for those in health, social care and educational establishments. Animal assisted intervention programmes are growing at an exponential rate. However, the enthusiasm for such programmes is not always reflected in programme quality standards. The IAHAIO Task Force continues to collate examples of best practice. This is important to help ensure high standards of animal welfare, of client safety, to also help ensure that such therapeutic adjuncts are effective and to enhance programme sustainability.

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