Families face 'heartbreaking decision' to rehome pets over rental rules

Families face 'heartbreaking decision' to rehome pets over rental rules
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With homeownership becoming more of a struggle for many each year, the SPCA believes changes to people's circumstances can force families into the heartbreaking decision to rehome their much-loved pet. 

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world and Kiwis overwhelmingly consider their pets part of the family, according to the SPCA. 

However, 33 percent of New Zealanders who do not currently own a companion animal and would like one, said they could not because their landlord did not allow them. 

Just last week, an SPCA in Auckland claimed they were encountering a backlog of cats needing rehoming due to successive COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and the longer-than-usual kitten season. 

More than 400 stray cats are currently waiting to be accepted into a south Auckland centre for crucial veterinary care that includes de-sexing, deworming, vaccination and flea treatments - before they can potentially be fostered or put up for adoption. 

SPCA's Mangere centre claims the backlog of cats is the worst staff have ever seen and they simply don't have the resources to offer a rehoming service. 

New Zealand Property Investors Federation CEO Sharon Cullwick said while she allows all of her tenants to have cats and dogs, it is a discussion between the renter and the landlord. 

However Auckland renter Emma Adams was told by her landlord that she could not adopt a stray cat despite her rental advertising that they sometimes allow tenants to have the animal. 

Adams said she was given no chance for discussion despite the backlog of stray cats around Auckland. 

"It saddens me because we have the privilege of a warm and loving home that we could provide to an animal in need, and to have that waved in front of your face with the possibility to have an animal and then get it rejected is upsetting."

Renters United spokesperson Geordie Rodgers said the advocacy group knows of thousands of renters across New Zealand who would like to adopt a cat but are "unfortunately unable to because of the amount of control landlords have over renters and the way they live their life". 

"I certainly think that right now, landlords have too much control over the way tenants live.

"The RTA [Residential Tenancies Act] is really set up in the landlord's favour where the landlord has very little risk and all of that is actually placed on the tenant, so if the cat were to damage the property, even if they have permission to have a cat, the onus of repairing that falls entirely on the tenant."

He said because of the risk falling onto tenants, he feels it is crazy that there are not more options provided to renters to have the companion animal throughout New Zealand. 

Rodgers said it is interesting to him that many landlords talk about wanting to provide someone with a home and then the next minute dictate how that person lives and every aspect of their life when they are residents of that property. 

SPCA scientific officer Dr Alison Vaughan told Newshub, if landlords accept pets, there could be more economic benefits for them. 

"Landlords who allow renters to have pets are able to widen their pool of potential tenants," she said. 

"Research also shows that landlords offering pet-friendly rentals are more likely to keep their properties rented for longer and may even maximise their profits." 

Vaughan said while the decision is ultimately up to the landlord, there are a few options which she believes could make non-pet friendly homeowners more comfortable with the idea of allowing tenants to have pets. 

"Landlords can advertise their rentals as 'pet negotiable,' ask for pet CVs, references from previous rentals or meet the animals."