April 16, 2024

Bowlingual Dog

Animal Planet Directory

Allowing pets in social housing a complex issue, U of A researchers say

For many pet owners, their companion animals are members of the family. What happens when pet owners have to choose between their fur-ever family and safe and affordable housing?

A recent joint study by researchers at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary revealed a gap in evidence-based policy and decision-making about companion animals in Edmonton’s social housing organizations. With insufficient research to understand the social and economic impact of living with pets, organizations and decision makers are left to wonder: How much property damage do companion animals cause? Does the size of the animal matter? Is the welfare of the animal at risk?

“Pets have an impact on health, quality of life and social connection,” said Maxi Miciak, co-author of the paper and an adjunct associate professor in the U of A’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. “We know that people who are accessing social housing are also experiencing the benefits of companion animals.”

Out of 16 social housing organizations the researchers studied, only four allow dogs, cats and other small companion animals. Organizations’ pet policy decisions were informed by a variety of sources, including staff interviews, consultations with peer organizations that allow pets, communications with current and prospective tenants, and the organization’s values and vision.

“Decision-making around companion animals is complicated,” said Miciak. “There is a tension between human rights and organizational policy.” For those who are precariously housed, that can mean having to choose between a warm bed to sleep in every night and keeping your pet, she said. To add to this difficult decision, most animals are not rehomed and are put-down in shelter facilities.

More research is needed to uncover possible evidence gaps and assumptions, said Miciak. “There are people who have been in vulnerable positions, and chose their animal, they chose their friend and there are others who have made the other choice. Organizations are also weighing a number of factors when making decisions. Either way, hard decisions are being made.

“Hopefully more research will help tenants and organizations make these decisions with confidence and help everybody get on the same page.”

Read the full article: Does fido have a foot in the door? Social housing companion animal policies and policy decision-making in a Canadain city.