A new leash on life: Study finds benefits for all parties in pet-friendly residential arrangements

More than 60 per cent of households across the nation own a pet but those living in private rentals are much more likely to have to give up a companion animal due to housing circumstances, according to Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute research.

AHURI research shows that of those who have had to give up a pet due to their housing situation, 52 per cent are tenants and 40 per cent are homeowners – usually living in strata title units that restricts pet ownership.

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.

The study, which examined previous international evidence, 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, it found that despite the benefits and the high value that households place on pets, the right of households to keep pets varied markedly depending on the housing sector and tenure within which they live.

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

“For example, strata title regulations across the country empower housing complexes that use strata title rules to determine whether pets are permitted. 

“However, legislation is gradually changing across the country with a recent ruling in Victoria stating that pets cannot be unilaterally banned.”

The study found that in general, tenants in the private rental market faced the strongest restrictions, with NSW, WA and SA legislation giving landlords the right to freely determine whether a property will consider renters with pets or not. 

In Victoria and the ACT, residential tenancy laws require landlords to not unreasonably refuse tenants’ requests to keep a companion animal.

“While landlords frequently cite concerns about property damage for refusing pets, there is little evidence to support this,” Professor Stone said.

She said there were mechanisms such as insurances and “pet bonds”, which are currently borne by tenants, that were available to manage risks.

“Indeed, there is some evidence that pet-friendly rentals return higher rents and are leased more easily than equivalent quality properties that do not allow pets,” Professor Stone said.

Openly providing pet-friendly housing also directly addresses issues with illegal pet keeping.

When pets are kept illegally, landlords and owners’ corporations are less able to regulate or monitor companion animal practices, for example, through requiring bonds or including property cleaning and maintenance requirements in property agreements.

Tenants in public housing usually have very good rights to have a pet, but people living in community housing, in crisis accommodation or in head-leasing arrangements (for example, housing leased from the private rental sector and re-rented to social housing tenants) can face restrictions similar to those experienced by private rental tenants.

Nevertheless, the research highlights some models of innovation where discretion is used well.

“Launch Housing in Victoria started a pilot program in 2018 which allows people to bring their pets into their crisis accommodation services,” Professor Stone said.

“This is significant as most homelessness support services do not allow pets in their accommodation, meaning many pet lovers who are experiencing homelessness fall through the cracks of the housing system. 

“In addition, pets entering Launch House accommodation are given a vet check by Lort Smith Animal Hospital, who also fund any health treatment the animals require.”

Such pet-inclusive policies can help prevent people remaining in unsafe and precarious living situations in order to keep their pets, such as after a natural disaster or in cases of domestic violence.

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Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson was the news editor for Elite Agent. He worked with the company from February 2020 to June 2020. For current stories, news alerts or pitches, please email