State house tenant wants clarity on new pet policy

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A tenant of a state house in Dunedin is asking the Government to communicate clearly after it finalises its more lenient pet policy allowing pet dogs.

Earlier this month, Housing Minister Phil Twyford announced there was a role for pets in improving the quality of life for Housing NZ tenants.

The current policy is that tenants cannot have pet dogs except in special circumstances, such as a certified hearing or sight dog.

Housing NZ tenant Tash Kyle said when she moved into a state house in Dunedin nearly five years ago, a Housing NZ staff member told her she could have her black Labrador-cross dog, Merlin, living with her.

A couple of years later, the same staff member said Merlin had to go.

“He said the rules have changed, so I ended up rehoming Merlin.”

Rehoming Merlin on a farm was heartbreaking because her pet had been undergoing training to recognise when she was having a panic attack and respond by “just being there as I work my way out of it”.

Merlin was 8 years old and his best days of training were behind him, she said.

Besides, Merlin had been moved around enough so he would not be moved from the farm, she said.

She was hoping to get a small companion dog to train in Merlin’s stead.

The Government allowing pet dogs in state houses was “a good move” because it helped tenants with their mental health, she said.

“Now they changed the policy, they better not change it back.”

The mixed messages from Housing NZ on dog ownership were harmful to tenants, she said.

Housing NZ chief operating officer Paul Commons said the agency was looking at its dog policy and how it could be changed to better suit the needs of tenants.

The new policy was expected to come into effect within the next few months.

Once the new policy was finalised and took effect, Housing NZ would tell its tenants and stakeholders so they fully understood how it would work.

“Our role is to provide a warm dry and secure roof for the most vulnerable in our communities and to provide pastoral care support that enables our tenants to have access to the support they need to sustain their tenancies and live with dignity.”