Support for petition on state house dogs

A petition calling for the Government to allow microchipped, registered and desexed dogs to stay in state houses has been backed by more than 300 people in its first day.

The appeal from Dog Rescue Dunedin (DRD) asks Housing Minister Nick Smith to allow responsible dog owners to sign on as Housing New Zealand (HNZ) tenants.

Earlier this week, the Otago Daily Times revealed through documents released under the Official Information Act that ''the [HNZ] executive team agreed to tighten the dog policy.''

One document said ''the corporation will be progressively moving to a `no dog' policy but will allow dogs in exceptional circumstances''.

The circumstances included a dog trained to assist a person with a disability; a dog important to a tenant's therapy for a mental illness or other chronic health conditions, a dog that had been at a property for many years and had been present at inspections.

DRD manager Michelle Hagar said she wanted HNZ to allow responsible dog owners to live in state houses.

The petition for Dr Smith went live at 9pm on Thursday and had more than 300 supporters by 9pm yesterday.

Ms Hagar expected the petition to be delivered to Dr Smith with 100,000 supporters.

The petition would be shared with other animal rescue organisations in New Zealand, to increase support.

''Please support this petition,'' Ms Hagar said.

''You never know when your circumstances may change.''

Dr Smith said he would consider the petition.

''However the dog policy is long-standing and unlikely to be changed.''

HNZ tenancy services acting general manager Jackie Pivac said HNZ's dog policy was not new - the corporation had always discouraged dog ownership in its 69,000 state houses.

''Dogs can cause damage to our properties, be a nuisance to neighbours and make it difficult or unsafe for our tenancy managers or contractors to visit our properties ... Having a dog can make it difficult for people to move on to private sector accommodation as many private landlords don't allow dogs.''

HNZ generally did allow dogs but made exceptions on a ''case by case'' basis using ''common sense and compassion''.

Dunedin City Council housing manager Sharron Tipa said there were no dogs in the 941 council flats in Dunedin.

The council flats were not fenced and were unsuitable for dogs, she said.

Mrs Tipa said an application for a working dog for a blind tenant would be considered by the council but an application from a tenant with a mental illness would not.

DRD petition at www.change.org/petitions/new-zealand-government-nick-smith-we-ask-that-o...

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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