No pets allowed: A trans-species social justice perspective to address housing issues for older adults and companion animals


  • Atsuko Matsuoka York University, Canada
  • John Sorenson Brock University, Canada
  • Taryn Mary Graham York University, Canada
  • Jasmine Ferreira York University, Canada



Housing, companion animals, pets, aging, trans-species social justice, Critical Animal Studies, human–animal relations


INTRODUCTION: Significant benefits of companion animals (i.e., pets) for older adults are recognized and publications on Animal-Assisted Intervention, Animal-Assisted Activities and Animal-Assisted Therapies with older adults are growing. Studies on housing and community- residing older adults with companion animals from a non-utilitarian perspective on other animals, however, are rather limited.

METHODS: For this scoping review, we used a Critical Animal Studies perspective, in particular, a trans-species social justice framework to address two questions: “What are the scope and size of the literature on housing for community living older adults with companion animals?” and “What is known from the existing literature?” We searched peer-reviewed publications from 1980 to 2019 by using MEDLINE, PsychINFO, ProQuest and Scopus.

FINDINGS: Six works from Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand and US met our criteria. A disturbing reality was discovered: Restrictive leasing (‘no pets’ for rental housing) among low-income older adults with companion animals in public housing has persisted for the last 40 years and prevents them from accessing affordable housing. Also, the discourse of pets as problems or risk seems to justify prohibiting older adults from living with companion animals.

CONCLUSION: Utilising the concept of speciesism and a trans-species social justice framework for analysis, we argue that intersectional institutional oppression of speciesism and classism is a root cause of the situation. Justice for older adults cannot be achieved without justice for their companion animals. Future studies in human–animal relations and education and practice in social work need to incorporate ideas of speciesism and justice beyond humans.


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How to Cite

Matsuoka, A., Sorenson, J., Graham, T. M., & Ferreira, J. (2020). No pets allowed: A trans-species social justice perspective to address housing issues for older adults and companion animals. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 32(4), 55–68.



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