A HOUSING association has been recognised with a RSCPA award for the seventh year in a row.

Hanover Housing Association, which has properties in Braintree and Witham, retained the RSPCA community animal welfare footprint.

The housing association, which manages Helen Court in Witham and Hanover Gardens in Braintree, allows its residents to keep pets for their health and wellbeing.

An RSPCA scheme began in 2008 to award housing providers which have an impact on improving animal welfare.

Hanover is the only national housing association to have been given an award by the RSPCA.

Nick Sedgwick, director of service development, said: “Hanover is proud of the fact that around half of our estates have pets and over 1,200 of our residents are pet owners.

“We are committed to ensuring that wherever possible pets are welcome across each estate.

"Nobody wants to break up a relationship with someone’s beloved pet, which is why we aim to take positive steps to encourage and ensure responsible pet ownership in all our properties."

"Recent studies have found that companion animals can help to lower blood pressure and regulate a person’s heart rate during stressful situations.

"Looking after an animal can also give older people a sense of purpose and reduce isolation for those who live alone."

Rachel Williams, parliamentary advisor for the RSPCA, added: “It is a fantastic achievement for Hanover to have retained their award for a seventh year in a row.

"The benefits of responsible pet ownership to older people are well known and recognised, so Hanover's commitment to allowing their residents to keep pets is really important.

"It is something we're thrilled to be able to recognise with an award yet again.”

It is estimated that some 12 million households across the UK have pets, meaning the pet population currently stands at around 54 million.

The most popular pets are dogs with 8.5m owners and cats 8m owners.

Helen Court on Riverview, Maldon Road, Braintree, offers 55 extra care apartments for residents aged 55 or over with additional needs.

Hanover Gardens, on Blackman Way, Witham, offers 58 one bedroom apartments for residents aged 55 or over, who may have additional needs.

Hanover is the only national housing association to be awarded an RSPCA award for its contribution to improving animal welfare.