Like many of us in the UK, we either know or bump into someone with a new puppy. The majority of them are first time dog owners. You can tell by the tangled training lead and wonder who is in control.
I think the focus here is more on dogs and the pros and cons of this huge spike of dog ownership. In 2020 there was an increase of 84% in London alone.
Across the UK, there has been an astonishing 3.2m households adopting pets over the pandemic lockdowns. Here are some more astounding lockdown pet statistics:
- 12 million dogs in the UK
- 12 million cats in the UK
- 59% of new owners are aged between 16-34
- 56% of new pet owners have children at home
- 74% of pet owners say having a pet helped with mental health during lockdown and the pandemic
- More than half of the new owners are aged between 16-43 years old
- Also, a lot of parents have ‘caved in’ to a long-term wish by members of the family to have a pet These articles by the BBC and Pet Business World highlight the huge rise in the pet ownership figures and the issues that come with it.
Already 5% of new pet owners have returned their pets to shelters because they did not properly research into the commitment having a pet requires. Unfortunately, as people return to a more ‘normal’ working life, the fear is that this figure will dramatically increase.
Pets and Mental Health
There is no doubting that pets have been great for people and their mental health over lockdowns. Have a dog or cat calms you down. They come and snuggle up to you, you stroke their fur and suddenly the stresses of the day have disappeared. I also find walking through the woods or on commons, particularly when few people are about, is somehow peaceful, clears your head for the working day to come and at the same time, my basset/ beagle, gets a good run around and has a muddy belly. Hospitals bring in dogs to brighten up the day or ill patients, whether it be children and adults. Dogs are loyal, show love and know when you are sick. Dogs are great for illness and mental health. They are not the cure but they bring joy and that along with medicine can help people’s health improve. Pets and mental health make a positive combination
This article from The Guardian discusses how people need interaction. They need the hugs from family and close friends as well as loved ones. It is human nature and to keep people apart only has a negative impact. You can understand why there has been a surge in pet ownership as people require company and having had to stay at home, was an ideal time to ‘integrate’ a puppy into the household. The other issue is that if puppies are not trained properly, they will have long term mental health and behavioural issues. This article The problem with pandemic puppy explosion discusses how poorly trained dogs and those that have not been socialised properly can hurt people. The blame is not on the dog, more on the owner.
The Pandemic Puppy Boom Has Had Negative Impacts
- People are not picking the poo up after their dogs
- People are not training their dogs properly and lack of socialisation means they do not know how to interact properly with other dogs and people. Hence the bite Britiain article above.
- People are going back to work and leaving them on their own for too long so they suffer from separation anxiety.
- People do not understand the commitment it is to have a pet. When the going get tough, they return the dog or cat to a shelter. Leaves the pet with their own mental issues. These comments from Landlords below so far sum up the sentiment:
”There are a lot more irresponsible dog owners now and poo on streets and left in parks is concerning.” ”I’m a pet owning landlord but having to deal with damages caused by tenants pets makes it a no pets for me in the future. As often happens, the minority spoil it for the few.”
The Pandemic Puppy Boom has also seen positive impacts
This recent Barking Mad in the Times talks of how the pet care market is forecast to rise to £2.1 billion by 2023. That is a huge market and just highlights the fact that pets are people’s children, yet it is difficult to find a place to rent with them.
According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, better known as the PFMA, the following UK pet population data has been released:
General Pet Statistics
- There are 34 million pets in the UK including cats and dogs.
- 3.2 million small mammals including guinea pigs and hamsters
- 3 million birds
- 1.5 million reptiles
- 5 million aquaria
When you look at these figures this equates to 17 million UK households with pets
- 38% of new owners said having a dog or cat was like having a new baby, of which 17% said it was more challenging than expected.
- 5% had to give up the pet, which increased to 11% among families.
Future Concerns of Pet Owners
- Only 15% have a pet friendly office environment
- 15% of 16-34 year olds were concerned of spending less time with their pets
- Of the 3.2m new pet owners, they will have to arrange doggy day care, dog walkers as their dogs in particular will not be sued to be on their own
- The good thing is that many people will still be working from home. Some companies have already announced that people will only be required in the office 2/3 days per week.
- A lot of pet owners, in particular the post lockdown ones, are new to juggling working life with pets. Also vice versa, dogs/ puppies will find it hard to be on their own for a few hours during the day or a big change in their daily routines.
This article outlines how Home Working is here to Stay. The pandemic has certainly advanced the use of technology. Zoom calls means less time out and about for meetings and will also impact overseas business travel. It also impacts commercial landlords as companies have questioned the amount of office space they need.
How does this all affect renting with dogs & cats?
When renting with a dog or cat or having a pet at home, most people commuted into work on a daily basis. With lockdown and IT advancement, this has all changed. This means people renting with their dogs for example can be there for them and plan their walks around the ‘working day’.
What are the pros and about tenants with pets being at home more?
- The main pro is that dogs will not be left on their own so much
- Separation issues for the dog and cat (particularly a house cat) could be an issue, which could lead to barking and neighbours complaining.
At Pets Lets, we look at it from pets & mortar basis. Finding a home for all the family. Some landlords have had some poor experiences with pet owners. Other see owners not picking up after their dogs. All of this gives a bad impression and you can understand their concerns. On the other hand, Landlords tend to agree that pet owners are mainly responsible, and it is only the few that let pet owners down.
Taking on a tenant is a ‘lottery’. Reference checks will not tell you about people’s behavioural patterns. In fact, you will know more about the behavioural patterns of a dog. Older dogs will sleep most of the day. Puppies need some exercise and proper training. My advice to landlords is take it on a case by case basis. Pet owners, take you dog on a viewing, especially if the landlord will be present. Show them the reality that your dog is well behaved.
Like all things it does take time. However, the ‘poodemic’ with irresponsible pet owners is really affecting those who care and just want a home that will allow their pets. If you see someone ignoring their dog doing its business and they walk on, for the sake of other pet owners, hand them a poo bag and ask them to clean it up.
This article was written by Russell Hunt, Founder of Pets Lets, a UK pet-friendly property portal offering properties where landlords consider pets. Pets Lets also offers a Specialist Pet Friendly UK Relocation Service finding pet friendly rentals, properties that allow dogs and cats, takes time and can be stressful.
For useful advice or to find out more about the UK pet friendly rental market, feel free to join our Pets and Property Tips Facebook Group for helpful professional advice on pets and property.