The Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) is proud to announce the successful applicants to its 2021 round of research funding. This is the second of three annual funding rounds which supports research into furthering the understanding of the human-animal bond.
The human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviours that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment. Projects to this round of funding were prioritised if they focussed on pets in housing issues; a subject that SCAS is passionate about and has been campaigning about for over 40 years.
Five pump priming grants were awarded to the following projects (abstracts can be found at the bottom of the page):
- Landlords’ perspectives about pet-friendly properties in the UK
(Luciana Santos de Assis, University of Lincoln, UK £9958.15)
- Understanding property managers: The benefits and risks of allowing pets in rental units in urban areas in the US and UK
(Ross Barker, OSU Policy Analysis Laboratory, Oregon State University, USA £9,981)
- Exploring Barriers to Housing Security for Pet Owners in Affordable Housing Properties in Houston, Texas, USA
(Kevin Morris, University of Denver, Colorado, USA, £10,000)
- Challenging pet un-friendly accommodation: an exploration of negotiating multispecies rental accommodation
(Zoei Sutton, Flinders University, Australia £9889.72)
- Changing homes, changing housing, changing relationships: Pets and care experienced children and young people
(Jo Williams, University of Edinburgh, UK £9928.77)
Acknowledgements: SCAS would like to thank the legacy donors who made this funding possible, the lay panel members who contributed to the review process reviewers, the research working group and the SCAS Board.
Landlords’ perspectives about pet-friendly properties in the UK
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the current “Housing crisis” in the United Kingdom, i.e. lack of affordable housing to buy. Nonetheless, the number of people owning a companion animal has also increased during the pandemic and ownership at this time brings several mental and physical health benefits to humans. However, only around 8% of rental properties across UK cities are pet-friendly and the quality of these tends to be lower. Consequently, many people are obliged to choose between their companion animals and the quality of where they live.
It is, therefore, important to identify and better understand the reasons why landlords opt for not accepting companion animals in their rental properties and the possible solutions to this in the UK. Qualitative research methods allow the exploration of the richness and interrelations of a topic and are important for gaining deeper insights into complex issues such as this. Therefore, this study will use interviews to apply a qualitative approach to investigate landlords’ perceptions of owning rental properties that are either pet-friendly or not. It will, therefore, identify: the main concerns of landlords about allowing pets to live in their rental properties; the real issues of having a pet-friendly rental property, i.e. type of damage, costs and how much work landlords had to repair them; and alternatives that would be suitable for landlords in order to alleviate/solve their concerns about pets living in their rental properties. Responses will be grouped into themes to explore the breadth of feelings, experience, and concerns about allowing pets to live in their rental properties. In addition, they will also be asked about whether any regulations or precautions would or do help reduce their concerns. Educational material will be developed in order to facilitate the dissemination of this result and will be available in a dedicated website to a broader audience (e.g. SCAS), focusing on landlords, similar to the approach taken by the Pets and Housing Resources (Michelson Found Animals Foundation) in the USA which share similar issues. These are essential to guide both preventive programs and regulations concerning this subject.
Understanding property managers: The benefits and risks of allowing pets in rental units in urban areas in the US and UK
Pets are reshaping human lifestyles in countries around the world. More people than ever include pets as part of their family. Organizations including the Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) and the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) have conducted research into human-companion animal interactions and raised awareness of the importance and value of pets in families. Yet the shortage of suitable and affordable housing for families with pets presents a significant challenge to many within our communities. The lack of pet-friendly rental units leaves many families (often low-income and/or minorities) unable to obtain the benefits offered by pets. Developing a better understanding of the barriers these pet owners face is an important step toward finding solutions.
The purpose of this project is to explore the perspectives of property managers, landlords, and housing staff about pet-friendly practices and policies, starting with the research question: How do property managers view pet-friendly housing? Among other topics, the research will focus on understanding the perceived benefits and risks associated with renting units to pet owners, with particular emphasis on the barriers pet-owning families face when searching for housing. Deepening our understanding of the perspectives and concerns of this gatekeeper group can inform interventions designed to build bridges between where we are in terms of pet-friendly housing and where we want to be.
The proposed qualitative research will consist of forty interviews with property managers, landlords and other housing associates who make decisions about rental of the units they oversee. These interviews will be conducted in large and midsize cities in the US and the UK. After the interviews are completed, a written report will be created which will include a summarization of the findings, implications for the field, and recommendations regarding policy actions and future research. The research team will disseminate short and long versions of a final report through various written and online channels, targeting organizations with the ability to implement change (e.g., professional associations representing housings managers, non-profits working in pet advocacy and community development).
Exploring Barriers to Housing Security for Pet Owners in Affordable Housing Properties in Houston, Texas, USA
Housing insecurity (e.g., eviction, rental restrictions, moving) is one of the most common reasons for companion animal relinquishment in U.S. animal shelters. These rates of relinquishment are driven by a growing deficit of affordable and pet-friendly rental units. In this study, qualitative interviews will be conducted with tenants from a variety of affordable housing units in Houston, TX, USA, including low-income housing tax credit developments, public housing properties, and those using housing choice vouchers. The purpose of this study is to document the barriers to finding and maintaining pet-friendly affordable housing in Houston, explore the impacts of housing insecurity on the relationship between people and companion animals, and to understand the potential impact of pet-friendly policies on community-wide health. Data from this study can be used to develop programs to address housing insecurity and to inform future policymaking. Findings from this study will be disseminated in a peer-reviewed academic journal and through a townhall presentation for all stakeholders and community members who participate in the study.
Challenging pet un-friendly accommodation: an exploration of negotiating multispecies rental accommodation
This project qualitatively explores how stakeholders (landlords, advocates, housing providers and other frontline workers) and tenants negotiate and experience pet-friendly housing in order to inform better pet-friendly housing policies and practices. The chosen research site (South Australia) is governed by ‘pet un-friendly’ policy, which sees landlords and other housing providers largely able to reject multispecies families without consequence. The partner organisation on this project has been working on the frontlines of assisting tenants with animal companions to secure housing through advocacy, mediation, application support and facilitating stakeholder-tenant negotiations. The proposed project, then, is well-placed to inform understandings of both the lived experience and successful challenging of negotiating rental accommodation by and for multispecies families. The proposed research has three main objectives:
1) To understand how landlords, housing providers and other stakeholders negotiate pet friendly housing, including the challenges and facilitators of providing pet-friendly housing.
2) To understand how tenants with pets experience the processes of finding and occupying accommodation, including the challenges, benefits and impacts on human-animal relationships that occur as a result of this.
3) To explore potential improvements to policy and practice that would better support the effective housing of tenants with pets, including risk mitigation for stakeholders and January 2021 negotiation of tenancy arrangements.
Pet-rental scholarship is currently an underexplored area. The proposed project, bolstered by its ties to the uniquely situated partner organisation, will contribute much needed research on the challenges and facilitators of navigating pet-friendly accommodation in a pet-restrictive regulatory context.
Changing homes, changing housing, changing relationships: Pets and care experienced children and young people
Children who are care experienced or leaving care have often experienced different ‘home’ and ‘housing’ contexts as their living circumstances change. This shifting pattern of home and housing and the impact it has on relationships puts care experienced children and young people at heightened risk of mental health difficulties. For many care-experienced young people, lack of trust in people, borne out of experience of relationship challenges and changes, is an obstacle to maintaining relationship with other people, including alternative caregivers. Pets may play an essential role in providing comfort and emotional support for these children and young people. The bonds they form with animals may enable them to build trust and facilitate human relationships. A recent citizen science project by Scottish care leavers on pets organised by STAF revealed that many care experienced children have formed extremely strong bonds or emotional attachments to pets, but also experienced separation from pets that has led to psychological distress. As young people leave care the desire to own pets is high, but housing concerns and pet care challenges can pose significant barriers to young people being able to offer appropriate pet care.