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Renters being forced to give up pets to find a home

Renters are being forced to choose between keeping their pets and being able to find a place to live, with hundreds giving up their pets each year.

According to animal welfare charity Companion Animal Network Australia (Australia CAN) there has been a 1.8 per cent increase in pets surrendered due to rental issues in the past 12 months.

Australia CAN Chief Executive Officer Trish Ennis said renters were not only under extreme pressure to pay ever-increasing rents, but they were also being asked to give up their pets.

“It’s already harder to rent due to the rental and housing crisis and even harder to rent with pets, causing people to have to choose between their much-loved companion animals and a home,” Ms Ennis said.

“Our members are reporting far too many pet surrenders solely based on rental and housing issues across all age groups.

“They are also finding that people are reluctant to argue against their landlord or strata’s ‘no pets’ policy because they are unwilling to risk losing their home or are unaware of their rights.”

According to member Animal Welfare League QLD, people needing to surrender their pet due to accommodation had increased from 19 per cent to 27 per cent during the past two years.

In May 2022 alone, 108 pets (79 dogs and 29 cats) were surrendered to Australia CAN’s member agencies across the country.

Ms Ennis has called on the Federal Government to introduce a nationwide rental policy for pets.

“We need a national, strategic approach in imposing regulations preventing landlords from discriminating against people with pets and contributing to thousands of animals being surrendered to shelters,” she said.

“It would save money, protect lives and avoid a lot of stress.

“We know this causes mental health issues for people, as well as disruption and separation anxiety for their pets.

“The increase in surrenders is also putting huge pressure on shelters and rescue groups across the country as many struggle with space and resources to care for these animals.”

According to Ms Ennis, some states made pet ownership far easier and she wants those policies to be used on a federal level.

“Victoria, ACT and the Northern Territory are doing a good job of this,” she said.

“Victoria, in particular, it only came in last September, if a landlord wants to dispute a tenant having a pet, they have to take it to VCAT.

“So it’s not just a blanket, ‘No, you can’t have pets’.”

Ms Ennis said in the short-term it’s also important that property managers continued to educate and encourage landlords to accept tenants with pets.

“Property managers can talk to their landlords and let people know that there are some good reasons to have pets,” she said.

“People who own pets tend to stay longer, they are very fastidious about their homes and don’t wreck them,” she said.

“They might even consider paying a little more rent.

“But the problem really is that at a state by state level, the laws are very different.”

Ms Ennis said Australia CAN had created a pet resume to help ease landlords’ minds.

“What we’ve created for landlords is for the tenants to fill out a resume for their pets,” she said.

“That will give the landlords references from places they’ve lived before with pets and it also gives them all their details.

“Then property managers can ask for those resumes, which would be a great thing to have.”

Ms Ennis said there were ways to encourage pets but the idea of a pet bond, similar to what is in place in Western Australia, isn’t very effective.

“I rent and I’ve always rented so I know what it’s all about,” she said.

“You have to leave a property in the same condition that you found it so it really isn’t going to make any difference.”

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Rowan Crosby

Rowan Crosby is a senior journalist at Elite Agent specialising in finance and real estate.