by Ally Parker
As Australians, we love our pets, 25 million of them in fact, according to the RSPCA.
At present, dogs can be found in 39 per cent of households and cats are sun baking/gracefully allowing human presence, across 29 per cent. And that's just in property that permits pet ownership. Across Australia, the default in multi-dwelling developments, of which we are increasingly living, has been a firm, and immutable, no.
So why are landlords and body corporates so damn stingy about letting us have them? Why are renters and renting wannabes forced to live a life A) without a pet or B) constantly rejected in favour of those sans four-legged companion?
The party line is that pets are destructive and impact property value by way of soiled floors and noisy yips. But you know what? I'm calling bull on the whole thing. Humans are, without a shred of doubt, far more destructive than a dog or cat.
We've seen it on A Current Affair and heard horror stories from our mates; tenants have punched holes in walls, dealt drugs, used whole rooms as rubbish dumps and knowingly started fires. Let's not forget the time Matthew McConaughey provoked a noise complaint by playing the bongos naked. Yes, this was in the US but no dog could do that, regardless of locality.
Speaking of A Current Affair, when was the last time you turned the show on and didn't see a tenant-based segment? If Tracey Grimshaw has to say the words, "tenants from hell" one more time she might go postal. Blink twice if you need help, Trace.
Basically, dogs - who have the ability to smell cancer and understand, "only shit here" despite no advanced language skills - are viewed less favourably when compared to humans, who despite advanced language skills, have been known to get drunk and think, "I know I'm supposed to poop here but it would be hilarious if I went … over there".
Go peruse Reddit for more examples. I'll wait.
Desperate to get the straight skinny, I spoke with a dog trainer and asked the hard-hitting questions (obedience, the potential for destruction, and whether she has a pooch I could pat for a bit).
"Most often dogs will develop destructive behaviours due to boredom," she explained. "It's important to ensure dogs are receiving ample exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and happy. A morning walk is great exercise as well as toys like a Kong with dry food inside to provide a rewarding challenge. Doggy day care is becoming increasingly popular as well."
To be fair, NSW Fair Trading have recently made pet ownership easier by providing a new model by-law, which an owner or owners corporation can choose to adopt or alter. This new by-law removes any reference to pet bans and starts the issue off on more equal footing rather than defaulting to a ban; a welcome change but just a start.
I'm no lawmaker but I'm going to suggest strong use of everyone's favourite verb, 'vet' to address this problem. I'm not talking about veterinarians or, as your pet may think of it, "No, no, no, no, no". Rather, an addendum to existing vetting procedures.
As a prospective renter, we're asked to provide proof of income, recommendations and rental history, especially in high-demand suburbs. If this vetting process is already in place, shouldn't it simply be extended to include pets? Surely references from previous landlords or vets, training papers or membership in a doggy day care facility could be included?
Rental inspections/carpet cleaning is also required on most leases already, and most pet owners would be happy to do them more frequently if it means they can both find a home.
Originally published as I rent and want a pet. Why is it so hard?