Many state-house dogs facing eviction

Housing New Zealand tenants Lara Elliott and Shane Wilson with their dog Mischief in Dunedin yesterday. The couple are relieved their dog has escaped the tough new Housing New Zealand regulations on dog ownership. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Housing New Zealand tenants Lara Elliott and Shane Wilson with their dog Mischief in Dunedin yesterday. The couple are relieved their dog has escaped the tough new Housing New Zealand regulations on dog ownership. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
The leash has shortened as the Government tightens its policy on dogs in state houses.

Housing New Zealand (HNZ) documents released under the Official Information Act revealed a plan to allow dogs to live at a state house only ''in exceptional circumstances''.

HNZ considered dogs a ''barrier to independence'' that made it difficult for tenants to ''move on'', the document revealed.

HNZ estimated about 40,000 dogs lived at state houses in New Zealand in 2012.

About half of HNZ tenants in New Zealand owned a dog and about 38% of the dogs were there without HNZ permission.

An HNZ executive team agreed last November any tenant who kept a dog without permission after being warned could be issued with a 90-day eviction notice.

A tenant would need written permission from HNZ to keep a puppy of a permitted dog.

If a puppy was kept without permission, a ''notice to remedy'' would be issued to remove the animal, a document said.

HNZ tenant Chanel Brogan, of Wakari, said she was ''gutted'' when HNZ declined her request to get a dog last week.

She had planned to rescue a dog destined to be put down.

''I'm a grown adult - I feel discriminated against,'' she said.

HNZ tenant Lara Elliott, of Andersons Bay, said she rescued her dog Mischief as a puppy while living in private rental accommodation.

Mischief was registered and microchipped and Ms Elliott got permission seven months ago from HNZ for the dog to move with her into a state house.

Stopping her from having a dog would be ''devastating'', as she had muscular dystrophy and a dog was comforting for her.

''If I had to give up my dog, I'd be heartbroken. They are a part of you.''

The HNZ documents said a dog could be kept if it assisted a person with a disability or was ''important to therapy for a mental illness or other chronic health condition''.

The document revealed HNZ deemed some dogs a ''health and safety risk''.

Between July 2011 and June 2012 there were 37 ''dog-related incidents'', including one leaving a HNZ staff member and four contractors requiring medical treatment.

HNZ lower South Island manager Kate Milton said tenants were discouraged from owning dogs.

''Dogs can cause damage to our properties, they can be a nuisance to neighbours and they can make it difficult for our tenancy managers or contractors to visit our properties.''

Many state houses were unsuitable for dogs, she said.

Although dogs played an important part in the lives of many tenants, it was not an easy rule to enforce. HNZ's ''first principle'' was not to allow dogs, she said.

''We ask that our tenants respect this approach.''

Dunedin Dog Rescue manager Michelle Hagar said it was ''disheartening'' an HNZ tenant could be refused dog ownership.

A petition had been started asking HNZ to change its dog policy to allow tenants to own registered, microchipped and desexed dogs.

The petition had been organised to ask the Government for the policy change, she said.


Criteria for having a dog

A dog is welcome in a state house if . -

• It has been trained to assist a person with a disability

• It is important to a tenant's therapy for a mental illness or other chronic health conditions.

• It has been at a property for many years and has been present at inspections.

• Decision to grant permission made on a case-by-case basis.


Re: Cats

I must say I do find some of that surprising, Ign, cats by their very instinct normally discreetly bury all fecal waste, and even urinating, they usually go on dug soil, no worse to a person having to do so behind a bush if no loo is near. But there are always a few exceptions, particularly with the occasional older cat. Spraying is something I've noted is a very rare problem, and less than the common sight of dogs urinating on lampposts, or worse, car wheels etc. I've not known of a cat (apart from own) snacking on food left about on the table etc.

As regards cat fights, these I have found to be only very occasional, and after a territorial face off with another cat, there's a quick scrap and they bolt, and thats the end of it, whereas barking is just incessant for hours on end. It stops briefly but away it goes as soon as another person passes the house, then away go other dogs that hear it. I remember being driven mad in Brockville by it some years ago, and not much better in South Dunedin either. Birds, unfortunately is the cat's instinct, but pale in comparison to some dogs that threaten humans and you can't always see immediately if the dog barking, as you pass its house, is going to attack or not, or if it's on a leash, or can jump the fence, plus the fright when it's sudden, especially if it happens to be an elderly person with a bad heart.

Dumpings, which is a dastardly human (or should I say in human) thing to blame, occur with both.


Am sorry pukeko, I disagree with your comments on cats, being a dog and cat owner myself. Cats are every bit as much a problem as dogs are. They walk into neighbours house and spray or leave other little presents in garden for unsuspecting gardeners. They walk in and take meat you have sitting on your bench, Attack and kill birds people may be feeding. Then there’s are the cat fights late at night, people dumping kittens on the side of the road, People not getting their cats fixed, which leads to 1000s of unwanted cats every year.

Dogs can also be a big problem in many of the same areas above. The difference is that there are laws governing dog owners that are enforced. The DCC needs to look at laws to governing cat owners and enforce those. They have cut services that the dog pound used to do, I.E. dog rangers no longer appear at people's houses unless there are complaints. In the old days dog rangers used to visit the homes of dog owners and check to make sure the property was fenced, that the dog was under control, had a warm dry place to sleep and food and clean water and would give advice where needed or asked for.

I agree that if you can't afford the basics in life then you should not have a cat or dog. Maybe a bird would be better as a pet for people who have a hard time paying for their bills.

I also agree that you can not take away a much loved pet that some one has had for a number of years, and that dogs should be a case by case review, Being a landlord myself I do allow dogs or cat in my houses. I do however charge extra on the rent for the 1st year. If no damage is done after a year I drop the $10 per week for dogs or the $ 12 per week for cats off the rent.

This extra few dollars each week helps to pay for any damage done to the house or gardens. This maybe something the HNZ should look into as it works well for both and the people who rent properties. [abridged]

Good idea

Less poop around, less of them barking at night (used to drive me berserk in Brockville, once one started the other things would go off like windchimes) and/or barking as you go past a gate (never able to figure out that passersby generally are not a threat, it's like a form of harassment).  And for HNZ, a house that doesn't smell if the tenants move out.  Cats are far more suitable for urban, clean animals that can cope without making a huge obtrusive noise for more than 5 seconds after the owners go out, and 'mind their business' in more ways than one.

But, that said, I think allowances should be made to those who keep their mutts under control, along with those others that get eceptional circumstances.

State house dogs

This is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it may mean fewer dogs in 'at risk' situations, but on the other hand there will be children missing out on the lessons of empathy and responsibility and the life experience of having a dog. It needs to be taken on a case by case basis, with tenants applying for approval just as you when you adopt a dog from the pound and the dog ranger inspects your property. I don't think it is fair or reasonable to ask tenants to part with animals they already have.

A dog can be a wonderful companion

Many years ago I lived alone with a long-term health problem. I had a dog and she meant the world to me. She kept me safe and was a continual companion. For the person who asked, her upkeep was reasonable and that included vet visits. I ensured she got those things. She was a lab/spaniel cross. I rented privately at the time.

It's fair...

After all, HNZ tenants are there because they can not afford market rents and are in financial situations which require heavy subsidies from the taxpayer.

So how can they afford to feed and care for a pet properly without the spare income to allow for it.

"Rescuing" pets that cannot be cared for by previous owners shouldn't be allowed by those who are already struggling, one vet bill and it's all over for the pet again.

No HNZ tenant is being refused ownership of a dog, they are just being told not while you are in HNZ accomodation. Huge difference. [abridged]

State house dogs

As a non State House tenant I had trouble finding a house when I moved to Dunedin due to my two labs.

Why should State House tenants get it easier than me? In my previous job I had to visit some of these homes and the ones with dogs were the worst looking ones and sometimes the ones I could not get into due to the dog. I have two dogs but my yard does not look anything like a lot I have seen or smell as bad as some I went into either. My current Landlord allows dogs but only while I keep the yard tidy and the dogs outside. Simple rules really.

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