National report highlights benefits of pet-inclusive housing, calls for policy reform

A Western Sydney University researcher has contributed to a new AHURI report that found that despite more than 60 per cent of Australian households having a pet, people living in private rental are much more likely to have had to give up a pet due to their housing circumstances than people living in other tenures.

According to the ‘Housing and housing assistance pathways with companion animals: Risks, costs, benefits and opportunities’ study released today, of those who’ve had to give up a pet to keep their housing, 52 per cent are tenants and 40 per cent are home owners (usually living in strata title units that restrict pet ownership).

Previous international evidence examined for the study has found widespread social, health and economic benefits of having a pet for both individuals and communities, with better health outcomes in both adults and children. However, despite the benefits and the high value that households place on pets, the right of households to keep pets varies markedly depending on the housing sector and tenure within which they live.

Study co-author Dr Emma Power, from the School of Social Sciences and Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University, said the comprehensive report found householders’ rights to live with companion animals vary greatly between state and territory jurisdictions.

“There are moves in some states and territories towards more balanced, pet-permissive policies, but there still remain many barriers across the country that restrict the ability of households that include companion animals to find secure housing,” said Dr Power.

The report assessed the risks, costs, benefits and opportunities for pet-permissive policy in housing contexts in Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

“Pet-permissive policies can bring more secure housing for households that include pets and have the potential to reduce the very high rates of pet relinquishment and euthanasia in Australia. They also bring better protection for property owners in all sectors,” said Dr Power.

In examining housing pathways with companion animals in a system-wide approach, the researchers highlighted barriers and opportunities in the public sphere, and in homelessness, crisis and emergency housing.

“Barriers to keeping pets are a particular problem in the homelessness and crisis sectors. They can prevent people from securing crisis accommodation and lead to people staying in situations of family violence. It is also difficult for people to transition out of homelessness and social housing sectors if they cannot secure alternative pet-friendly housing,” Dr Power said.

The new AHURI report, the first study of its kind internationally to examine the relationship between living with pets and the entire housing system, was undertaken for AHURI by researchers from Swinburne University of Technology, Western Sydney University, University of South Australia, Curtin University, Adelaide University and The University of Sydney.

“Our research finds that some housing tenures are more progressive than others, and even home owners can face restrictions in what pets they can have,” says lead researcher Professor Wendy Stone from Swinburne University of Technology.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Despite more than 60 per cent of Australian households having a pet, policies remain restrictive across many housing sectors in Australia
  • The rental market is the most restrictive — an estimated 15–25 per cent of pet relinquishments are related to rental mobility/access and pet restrictions
  • Research has found that property damage by households with pets is no more likely than for households without pets
  • Progression to pet-inclusive housing policies is critical for enabling people living with pets in unsafe and precarious living situations such as domestic violence, or homelessness, to transition to safer housing.

Download the full report here .

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