I MET a woman recently who’d just moved to Sydney.
She’s a single mum with a dog, currently staying with friends while looking for a place to rent. I knew the drill as she started to tell her story. Her tired face said it all. I remember moving back to Sydney a few years ago and the nightmare I had trying to rent with two cats. I was always banished to the back of the queue.
“Friends said I should lie,” she admitted. “But he’s a sheep dog. How can I hide him? It has come down to a home or the dog,” she said, almost in tears.
I wonder why such discrimination is still possible, especially since landlords can take bonds to cover pet damage. Surely animals don’t do any more damage than young kids (or teenagers for that matter, after their drunken parties).
Not that property owners are exempt from onerous pet regulations, either. My ex-husband couldn’t even babysit our cats in his own townhouse a while back, when I went travelling, due to body corporate by-laws.
The matter is becoming a social issue, with many Australians condemned to lonely and unhealthy lives because of bans on pets, according to University of Tasmania sociologist Adrian Franklin, author of Animals and Modern Cultures. Professor Franklin recently completed a project on loneliness in Australia. He says evidence shows that animals are highly beneficial to health, especially for our ageing population. For instance, a Mayo Clinic study found that seniors with pets have 21 per cent fewer doctor visits.
Rules for pets in strata buildings and rental properties vary from state to state. But University of Western Sydney researcher Emma Power is calling for an easing of by-laws and improvement of pet-friendly designs for apartments; while tenants’ groups keep challenging rental agreements.
I think the situation should go further. It should be unlawful for anyone to discriminate against pet owners unless there is solid evidence that a pet is particularly noisy or is from an aggressive breed. Let’s not force renters and apartment-dwellers to choose between a home or the family pet. It’s too sad.