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Pet Ownership = Better Health Outcomes

Did you know that Australian pet owners visit their doctor less than non-pet owners? And recover from illness faster? The University of WA has even released research showing that pets are the glue which can hold communities together, creating bridges of communication between neighbours and providing a wonderful topic of conversation between strangers.

The health benefits for both pets and owners cannot be understated, and yet in Australia pet ownership is unfortunately on the decline. 200,000 cats and 100,000 dogs have disappeared from the Australian pet landscape in the last year which is quite surprising, especially for a nation considered by many to be pet-loving, active and inclusive. 

Part of the problem is Australia's increasingly restrictive "rules" that are actually making it more difficult for people to own and enjoy life with their pets.  Strata laws are trying to prevent occupiers from owning animals, more than ever real-estate agents and landlords are advertising "No Pets" and families are increasingly being caught in the middle, having to choose between living in a particular house or giving up their beloved family pets in order to do so.

This problem is further exacerbated within the homeless community, many of whom were pet owners before they fell into homelessness. It also extends to a lack of crisis and shelter housing available for women with pets who need to escape domestic violence situations, the sheer weight of leaving behind a beloved pet with an abuser can even mean that some women continue to remain in dangerous situations.

Animal Welfare League Queensland reports that around 25% of its 2,500 surrenders in one financial year are due to an inability to find pet friendly accommodation, and the Queensland Residential Tenancy Authority states that only 10% of the states rental properties currently allow pets.

Interestingly the Queensland Commissioner has actually ruled the banning of all pets in strata-title unit and apartment living, as well as the banning of dogs of a certain size or breed, as invalid and unreasonable. Body corporates must address this on a case-by-case basis, but rental property owners however can still just say 'no'.

By contrast European pets can not only live just about anywhere, but they can also travel on planes, trains and buses, can join their owners in cafes, restaurants and shops, and as a result of being included, stimulated and engaged are more energised, healthier, and happier animals.

So how do we start to change this trend here and in other not-so-pet-friendly places?

The construction of more pet-friendly spaces in our cities and towns is a really good place to start. Designating more open off-leash dog parks, beaches and open spaces, off-leash fenced urban areas that also contain agility courses, accessible water bowls and waste bags, is a viable first step for many councils.  Councils can also address registration requirements, and look to encouraging more pet-friendly businesses such as dog-groomers, boarding kennels, and veterinary services whilst also taking steps to protect the rights of tenants with pets. 

83% of Australians have had a pet at some point in their lives, and currently two-thirds of Australian households own a pet with dogs coming in most popular (38%) and cats close behind (29%). And of those people that don't own a pet 53% would like to own one, (#adoptdontshop) which means the issue of finding suitable living and recreation spaces for people and pets is not going away any time soon. 

Consider for a moment how unaffordable home ownership is/has become in this country, and look therefore at how many young Australians may actually end up renting for their entire adult life.... Unless we start making some serious changes to the way we treat pets and their owners now, our unhealthy and unhappy regulations risk not only our own health but also that of our communities in the long run.

Do you have a favourite pet-friendly place? Does your community have areas for pets to roam leash-free or any great cafes serving puppycinos and cuddles??  Please comment below and share your top pet-friendly hangs outs. X

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