Legal, Property, The Pet Industry

“Heartbreaking”: The renters missing out on Australia’s pet boom

Matthew Elmas /

Business is booming in Australia’s pet-related industries. Pet ownership is rising and we’re spending more money than ever on our furry friends.

Essentially, as SmartCompany has covered elsewhere, it’s a good time to be selling anything animal-related.

But it’s not all dog treats and scratching polls. While more than two-thirds of households now own pets, Australia’s patchwork of state-based renting laws are giving people a pretty good reason to steer clear.

Renters have real estate agents, landlords and in some cases even strata title body corporates to deal with if they’re thinking about becoming pet owners.

Here’s the rub: 30% of Australians rent and 62% own a pet, but according to an analysis on 70,000 properties last year, just 10% of rental homes are labelled as pet-friendly.

Those figures are from different data sets, but the sizable discrepancy between those who own pets and those offering rental homes points to a problem.

Complicating things, pet ownership can’t just be switched off and typically lasts much longer than a lease agreement, which means many renters often get caught in sticky situations.

RSPCA estimates 15-30% of dogs and cats surrendered to shelters are from owners who couldn’t take their pets into a new rental property.

“Not welcome”

As Rufus & Coco founder Anneke Van den Broek explains, the problem may even get worse as more Australians move towards higher-density apartment living.

“Pets in Australia are not welcome in tenanted and rented accommodation,” she tells SmartCompany.

“It’s a really big problem. We’ve had heartbreaking comments made to us, people who are literally sleeping in cars because they’re not willing to give up their dog.”

It doesn’t just stop at renting either. As Australians gravitate towards high-density living, retail expert Louise Grimmer makes the point public spaces are becoming increasingly important for pet owners.

“Most complaints people have aren’t actually about the pets, they’re about owners,” Grimmer tells SmartCompany.

“People start talking to each other when there’s a pet around, they’ll spend longer in a store and spend more money.”

But there are a surprising number of public places where pets aren’t welcome or allowed.

There are countless local government restrictions on the presence of pets in local parks and beaches. Grimmer says most public areas that aren’t overtly pet designated don’t allow them.

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code prevents businesses from allowing dogs inside and stipulates pets can only be outside if certain conditions are met.

Meanwhile, in NSW and Victoria, pets are only allowed to be on public transport if they’re in a box basket or another container.

Cause for optimism

But there’s cause for optimism. Thanks to reforms passed last year, Victorian landlords won’t be able to “unreasonably refuse” pets without approval from the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The upshot is while tenants need written consent for pets, landlords will need VCAT’s approval to say no.

Laws are also coming into effect in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) later this year which will restrict the ability of landlords to deny pet owners without a reason.

In Queensland, reforms which will be introduced later this year will aim to make owning a pet in rental properties easier. At the moment, landlords are required to provide approval and can refuse requests without a reason.

It’s the same in Tasmania and South Australia, where landlords must approve pet ownership requests.

Over in Western Australia, things are a bit different. Pet bonds are part of residential tenancy agreements, capped at $260.

These bonds increase the costs for pet owners but provide for landlord peace of mind in the event of pet-related damage.

NOW READ: Catering for canines: Australians love their pets, so why don’t we build cities with them in mind?

NOW READ: From DOGTV to pet cremation: How humanisation is driving a boom in the business of our furry friends

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].

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