ANDOVER’s MP has been endorsing the company of furry friends at home, particularly for those struggling with loneliness or mental illness.

Kit Malthouse, North West Hampshire MP and housing minister, was quizzed in Parliament over the ability for social housing tenants to keep pets, after a Warwickshire-based member said he was aware of a council that had banned its tenants having animals at home.

Mr Malthouse, who himself owns a cat called Punky, pictured, said: “As part of a family who regard their pet cat as an intrinsic and important member of our household — members may well be amused by that, but it is true a number of people, particularly those who live alone or those who have children, rely on their pets for comfort and calm and for companionship.

“I would hope that all local authorities operated a humane and compassionate letting policy where this is concerned, and I would be more than happy to look at the rules around that.”

Across Andover, social housing is managed by housing associations such as Aster Group and Sovereign, rather than the borough council, and both require tenants to seek permission to keep pets in their properties.

Pets under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 such as a pit bull terrier are banned under Aster’s pet policy, and Sovereign also bans certain breeds of dogs.

Aster requires tenants to fill out a request form for each animal to be kept at home, and states “permission will not be unreasonably withheld.”

Sovereign details how many and what type of pets are allowed in its different house types, such as up to three dogs, cats, caged birds and caged animals such as hamsters in a house or bungalow.

Its pet guidelines said: “Pets can be a great source of companionship and enrich our lives. While we understand that you may want a pet, we do need to consider the impact this can have on your property and neighbours.

“That’s why you need to contact us to see if you need permission, before getting a pet.”

Mr Malthouse added: “Pets can have a large impact on the lives of anyone, especially those struggling with loneliness or mental illness.

“Everybody should be able to experience the companionship that comes along with a pet, regardless of the type of home they live in.”