The end of the rental eviction moratorium and a shortage of rental properties in Western Australia that allow pets has resulted in more people having to relinquish their pets to animal shelters.
Perth homelessness services are seeing more people experiencing homelessness because they cannot find a rental that will allow them to keep their pet.
“Through our research into homelessness I’ve met people living on the street with their dog as they cannot find crisis or long-term accommodation that will allow their pet.”
Dr Lisa Wood
Dr Lisa Wood, from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health, is a researcher passionate about both homelessness and pets.
“Through our research into homelessness I’ve met people living on the street with their dog as they cannot find crisis or long-term accommodation that will allow their pet,” Dr Wood said.
“When your dog is your one constant, your safety, your warmth at night, a reason to stay alive, it is soul-destroying to give them up.”
Homeless Healthcare, the largest specialist GP service for homeless people in Perth has seen the trend firsthand.
Dr Andrew Davies, Homeless Healthcare CEO said the organisation’s street health outreach in the Perth CBD saw people sleeping rough because they couldn’t find accommodation that allowed pets.
“At our clinics, some patients come to appointments with their dog,” Dr Davies said. “What else can they do? You can’t leave your dog at home if you don’t have a home.”
One lucky dog no longer homeless as of this week is Freddie, a two-year-old mastiff-cross adopted by homelessness researcher Shannen Vallesi, also from UWA’s School of Population and Global Health.
“I have wanted a dog for years but because I was renting, dogs were not allowed,” Ms Vallesi said.
“But my new landlord is very happy for me to have a dog, and working in the homelessness field, I was determined to rescue a homeless dog. I adopted Freddie yesterday from Shenton Park Dogs Refuge Home, and he now has a forever home.”
In Victoria tenancy laws have recently changed to reduce some of the barriers to pet ownership in rental properties, and Queensland has proposed similar reforms. But WA lags behind on this.
“Australia is a pet-loving nation with around two-thirds of people having a pet. As owning your own home becomes less and less affordable, we need to reduce the tendency for landlords to just default to ‘no pets allowed’,” Dr Wood said.
“Pet owners in fact often make for very responsible tenants, and as our UWA research has shown, pets often facilitate neighbourly interactions and a sense of community.”