Published: 11:12, 16 March 2021
| Updated: 16:57, 17 March 2021
An MP is calling for councils across the UK to follow Maidstone's example and introduce more compassionate rules surrounding pets in temporary accommodation and social housing.
It comes on the fourth anniversary of the death of John Chadwick who took his own life after he was banned from taking his two dogs and a cat into the permanent accommodation the borough council had found for him.
The 52-year-old was evicted from his home of four years and put into a bed and breakfast in Chamberlain Avenue after the landlord decided to sell the property.
He was to move into a new flat in Square Hill, but his beloved dogs, Theo and Tinkerbell, and his cat Gizmo were not allowed to come with him.
When his pets were taken away, he found it difficult to cope and after 10 days of separation, on March 16, 2017, he took his own life.
In the wake of the tragedy, close friend Dee Bonnett campaigned in Mr Chadwick’s memory with Cllr Malcolm McKay to change the way councils approach pets in temporary and social housing.
Her hard work meant in 2018, a New Pet Policy for Emergency Accommodation was implemented in Maidstone.
Later, in August last year, Maidstone Borough Council and the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee, became one of the first councils to take another step forward to implement a 12-month pilot scheme.
It means that if a person refuses a house because they are not allowed to take their pets, instead of dropping to the bottom of the list, they will remain a priority until a pet friendly home does become available.
The changes received cross-party support.
On the anniversary of his death, MP Helen Grant for Maidstone and the Weald, is urging other councils across the UK to consider introducing similar policies to prevent the further loss of life.
Mrs Grant said: "This is an issue faced by anyone moving into rented accommodation with a pet.
"The government’s recent changes to the Model Tenancy Agreement, under which landlords will no longer be able to issue a blanket ban on pets, shows the government is aware of the problem.
"The Model Tenancy Agreement is non-binding, but it acts as a powerful signal to landlords, housing associations and councils regarding the appropriate way to deal with this issue.
"Yet we must do more. At the very least, for the most vulnerable in society – the homeless, and the rough sleepers – we must make Maidstone Council’s humane pet policy the norm. That would be a fitting tribute to the memory of John Chadwick."
Mrs Grant is working alongside MP Andrew Rosindell, for Romford, who in October introduced a 10-Minute Bill called the Dogs and Domestic Animals (Accommodation and Protection) Bill.
Cllr Margaret Rose who joined Cllr McKay and Mrs Bonnett in their fight for the changes says while the pilot has been a positive step, there is still a long way to go before the policy is set in stone.
"... people should no longer have to choose between a roof over their heads and their pets."
The councillor for Fant ward said: "We haven't put that situation to bed yet.
"The whole committee is in agreement but I'm still concerned it won't be put in a bona fide MBC policy once the year is up.
"I'm told situations like Mr Chadwick's don't come up a great deal, but what we want is for it to be in place so that when it does come up, and we know it will, people won't be driven to taking their own life.
"The whole crux of it is that people should no longer have to choose between a roof over their heads and their pets.
"All we can do now is wait for the results of the pilot in a few months time."
Just 7% of rented properties are advertised as pet friendly.
Battersea Dogs and Cats Home say that “no pets” policies are the second most cited reason for pets being abandoned to them.