More Australians than ever share their lives with pets and companion animals, more than almost anywhere else in the world, but with pets not allowed to actively socially interact in the broader community many people can’t reliably or affordably get where they need to go while including pets in our lives. Being able to get where you and your pet want to go is important. People without a car are more likely to be prevented from taking their pets to the vet, as pets are still restricted from travelling on public transport in some States/territories. Pets are still restricted in the rental accommodation arena, and in a number of our elderly care or retirement community facilities.
No animal should have to go without medical care, or have to be surrendered simply due to antiquated laws and thinking. While there are exemptions for assistance animals, this does not always include therapy and emotional support animals.
Animals need to be able to interact within our society more freely, but with some rules that keep the level of interaction comfortable for all.
Pets in Rental Housing
Research has shown that there are health benefits, both mental and physical when owning a pet. Such benefits can help promote a more harmonist environment within a strata environment, as caring for an animal can decrease the severity of depression and anxiety, as well as relieve stress.
Many of the arguments against pets being kept in strata could equally be applied to the impacts that children can have on a property. In many cases children are arguably as destructive and more of a nuisance than pets could be. To discriminate against animals is simply pandering to the bias of individuals.
Rationale in support of pets in strata complexes:
1. Owners/tenants should be able to keep animals without having to inform anyone, as this a basic right. A right that should exist without the need for cumbersome ‘red tape’ which some owners’ corporations rely on and seem to relish!
2. Pet ownership is popular in Australia. It provides comfort and prevents loneliness, and as we have seen during the recent months of the pandemic, pets have become more essential than ever to daily family life. Small animals are well suited to living indoors with their owners. They brighten our lives, and give us routine and structure. The majority of households in Australia have pets, and legislation needs to catch up to current sentiments in the community.
3. With the rapid increase in high density housing in Australian centres, increased urbanisation, reduced human interaction and more time spent in front of screens, pet ownership has become essential for our mental wellbeing and emotional health. Children learn from pets to be responsible, about obligations, about how to cope with grief, and how to develop routines.
4. Responsible pet ownership involves spending time with our animals, training them, caring for them, and growing emotionally with them. Animals teach adults and children about empathy, which makes them better community members. This should be supported by legislation.
5. Many people escaping domestic violence are limited in their options to find accommodation that allows pets, and remain in unsafe situations longer than they should.
6. The default position that animals should be permitted (unless they are problematic) would assist our most high risk and vulnerable community members to be safe. As a community, we need to support their animals to support them. This should be supported by legislation.
7. Vulnerable community members such as the elderly, disabled and those struggling with mental health issues also frequently have pets, for support and comfort and to give their daily lives meaning and purpose. This is not insignificant. Pet owners have been shown to live longer, happier and healthier lives. Having someone relying on you to get out of bed every day and take care of them is incredibly meaningful, and comforting. This should be supported by legislation.
8. Allowing pets in strata is about supporting our community, being reasonable and empathetic to the needs of our most vulnerable while ensuring children develop the emotional range to live in a crowded world.
9. As Australians move into more high rises and the ¼ acre block becomes an icon of the past, we need more support from government to ensure that our communities are able to have the well- rounded, diverse lifestyles that are necessary to develop healthy communities that care about each other.
Some basic principles:
Principle 1 –
The large majority of Australian residents would like to keep pets, or are already keeping pets.
All research, including the Animal Medicines Australia report, supports this principle. Indeed, given the current difficulties keeping pets due to By-laws and to many council’s numbers-based regulation, ACA suspects the percentage of residents wishing to keep pets to be substantially higher than statistics indicate.
Given the overwhelming support for pet keeping, ACA recommends Acts are edited to remove all restrictions on pet keeping.
Principle 2 –
Pets greatly enhance the mental health of the community.
There is an enormous body of evidence supporting the therapeutic value of pets to the mental (and also physical) health of the community. Beyond Blue’s, “Pets and their impact on mental health”, is an excellent introduction to such research.
Laws and By-laws that attempt to restrict the ability to keep pets will impact on the mental health of residents. Such regulation, as the recent NSW Court of Appeal case found are oppressive, and in ACA’s view are also harsh and unconscionable.
Principle 3 –
Pet keeping should be encouraged, with the caveat that it does not adversely affect others.
Model By-laws should also be amended to make it clear to all owners and tenants that pets are permitted, however they must be kept under control when on common property and they must not cause a nuisance to other lots.
Animal Care Australia supports pets in strata and rental housing
Pets on public transport
Throughout much of the world, pets are allowed on public transport. Each country/region has slightly different rules governing how the pets are to travel.
In Australia, public transport is looked after by the state governments. This means the rules stating whether pets are permitted on board differs between each state. Please note, for this section we are NOT referring to Accredited Assistance Animals thar are permitted across Australia to travel on all public transport.
Below is a breakdown of rules relating to pets travelling:
Australian Capital Territory: Canberra and the ACT is fairly pet-friendly when it comes to public transport, as long as you have a small pet. Pets are allowed on both the new light rail line and buses, as long as you ask permission off the driver. Pets are allowed on both the new light rail line and buses, as long as you ask permission off the driver. However, they need to be in a box, basket or other appropriate pet container, which means this is only really an option for smaller pets.
New South Wales: Pets are allowed on buses, light rail and ferries in NSW, albeit they need to travel in a suitable carrier at all times when on board. This means it is only really a practical transport option for small dogs and other small pets.
It’s also a requirement to ask permission from the driver or crew, who, as long as your pet is in a carrier, are most likely to deny permission if the service is reaching capacity. Animals may also be refused if they are unclean, seem vicious, or are likely to annoy or threaten other passengers.
Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on any of the state’s trains, including the metro trains, plus on coaches, even if in a carrier. This means it’s difficult to transport pets longer distances using public transport in NSW, including between Sydney and the surrounding cities of Wollongong and Newcastle.
Northern Territory: The Northern Territory is one part of Australia that prohibits pets in its public transport rules.
Queensland: Pets have limited access to public transport in Queensland. At the moment, pets are only permitted to travel on the Brisbane River ferries and CityCats.
Unlike in Sydney, both small and large dogs are permitted, either in an enclosed carrier or wearing a leash and muzzle, on the outside deck. Dogs are also not permitted onboard during peak hours, 6:00am to 8:30am then 3:30pm to 7:00pm on weekdays. Plus if a service is full, you might be asked to wait for the next one. Dogs are also welcome on board the CityHopper service, a free ferry that runs roughly every half hour in between North Quay and Sydney Street.
South Australia: Pets not permitted to travel on public transport in the state.
Tasmania: Pets are also not permitted to travel on public transport in the state.
Victoria: The most pet-friendly state in Australia when it comes to public transport, with pets allowed on a wide range of public transport services.
Metropolitan trains, allow both small animals in a container or larger dogs wearing a leash and muzzle permitted. It’s recommended though to avoid peak hour, between 7am and 9am and 4pm and 6pm on weekdays. Small pets are also allowed on board trams, buses and regional V/Line train services, as long as they are travelling in a suitable container. The only non-pet-friendly services are V/Line coaches, which only allow assistance animals.
Western Australia: Pets are not permitted on public transport in the state.
Australia is way behind the times and society expectation when it comes to pets being permitted on public transport.
This is why Animal Care Australia supports amendments to all relevant legislation permitting pets to travel.
Animal Care Australia supports the model in Victoria with the exception that coaches should also permit pet travel under similar conditions to other public transport in Victoria.
Animals should not be permitted to roam freely, and passengers (the general public) with phobias or allergies should be provided with access without coming into immediate contact with the animals.
That is, animals may be within pet carriers, a separate carriage on trains or trams, or separate sections on buses and ferries. Dogs not in pet carriers should be on a leash and harness.
Animal Care Australia supports pets on public transport
ACA strongly suggests the definition of an Assistance Animal NOT be restricted to the Disability Discrimination Acts, that being:
“… a dog or other animal that:
· is accredited by a prescribed animal training organisation or under a State or Territory law, or
· is trained to assist a person with disability to alleviate the effects of the disability and meet the standards of hygiene and behaviour appropriate for an animal in a public place.”
Many people keep animals for emotional support – Emotional Support Animals. These animals provide support for people with special physical or mental needs, providing comfort, and companionship, they relieve loneliness as well as help with depression, anxiety and motivating their owners to get out and about.
These animals do not receive any specialised training to qualify them as assistance animals by law, however they do play a major positive role when it comes to mental health.
The Assistance Animals definition does not apply to non-certified ‘facility animals’ or ‘therapy animals’ who are partnered with health care, educational or other professionals to support people in various facilities (such as schools, learning or rehabilitation centres, care homes, therapy clinics, psychiatric facilities or courts) and who live either at the facility or with their handlers. These animals are an integral part of our society and people living within strata lots should not be penalised or discriminated against simply because their particular animal and/or needs do not fit within an existing definition.
The Accreditation process must be expanded to include Assistance and Therapy Animals as well as broadening the inclusion of other species (not just dogs) as many species have the ability of providing the support and needs of these vital roles.
In rental housing, there should be no burden of proof that an animal is either an Assistance Animal or an Emotional Support Animal. Requirements should be based so they are not related to any impact on other lot owners.
Both Assistance Animals AND Therapy Animals should be permitted to travel on public transport without restrictions, as long as they and are adequately accredited and identifiable.
Animal Care Australia supports greater expansion and accreditation of Assistance Animals and Therapy Animals.
Pets in Aged Care
Traditionally, residential care homes and retirement villages have been pet-free zones, with residents having to give up their pets when they move in. Thankfully, aged care homes are increasingly welcoming pets through the door, due to the increasing evidence of the benefits of having a pet. Research shows that having pets around can boost health and wellbeing of elderly people, and the benefits can also be seen socially, emotionally and cognitively.
The benefits of allowing pets to live in nursing homes are well established:
- Being allowed to take a pet into aged care can ease the transition of the move.
- Pets can educe feelings of loneliness.
- Pets can reduce levels of stress and anxiety, lower blood pressure and increase aerobic activity.
- More people may choose to live in aged care facilities if they are allowed to take their pet/s with them.
- Lower number of pets taken to animal shelters.
- Pets create a sense of independence for their owners.
- Pets in nursing home boost the morale of both staff and residents.
- The responsibilities of owning and caring for a dog, for example, can encourage increased levels of motivation and physical activity. It also provides companionship and a sense of purpose by looking after it. Owning a pet can also help people deal with stress and grief.
- Research has also found that dog and cat owners make fewer visits to the doctor and spend less time in hospital. They also tend to have lower cholesterol and blood pressure compared to people who don’t have pets.
The love and companionship offered by pets is particularly important in residential care, where a much-loved pet can help ease the transition from moving from their home to an aged care residence. While there are challenges with pets in aged-care facilities, the benefits far outweigh the demands. Pets can be an integral part of aged care homes, just like they are in the wider community.
As the Australian population ages, the demand for aged care accommodation is likely to rise , and so should the need for including companion animals in these facilities.
Animal Care Australia supports pets in aged care, with some simple provisos:
- Animals may be owned by the facility itself or may be brought in and privately owned by individual residents.
- The management of associated risks to the animals and residents is achieved through the establishment of a veterinarian–client (the facility) –patient relationship.
- Animals should also undergo behavioural assessment by a suitably qualified veterinarian/behaviourist prior to entry and this should be reviewed on a regular basis.
- The facility and individual owner(s) of the pets should enter into an arrangement for regular veterinary care with a veterinary professional, including arrangements for out-of-hours emergencies.
- A suitable agreement/arrangement should be in place between the facility, the pet owner and the family for the continued care of the pet during it’s time at the facility as well as when the time arrives that either the owner or the facility is no longer capable of caring for the pet.
- The welfare of the pets must be centric to the above arrangement at all times.
In some situations, it’s not feasible to live with a pet in a nursing home. Pet-friendly facilities might be full (demand often outstrips supply), located in an inconvenient part of town, or just plain unaffordable. Under these situations Animal Care Australia supports the inclusion of Pet Therapy Animals, in which a trained animal provides vulnerable people, including the elderly, with much-needed emotional support.
Frequent, hands-on interaction (lots of cuddles and pats) with a therapy animal has been shown to reduce blood pressure, alleviate chronic pain, stimulate memory, and boost morale. From Alzheimer’s to isolation, pet therapy can treat a wide range of cognitive, emotional, mental, and physical conditions.
Alternatively, facilities that can be deemed “pet-friendly,” but unable to allow pets to reside, can mean the family pet is allowed to visit during the day, but will need to reside with a loved one for the rest of the time.
Animal Care Australia supports pets in aged care