Why we should be encouraging more pet ownership in apartments

More Sydneysiders are set to become pet owners with increasingly flexible work from home policies and new New South Wales laws reducing strata’s blanket pet ban.

The laws that come into effect this week mean bylaws that unreasonably forbid the keeping of pets in strata buildings will be invalid.

That’s good news as Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world.

Almost two-thirds of homes have at least one pet while about half of Australian households own a dog, according to University of Melbourne research.

Billbergia Group Development Director, Planning and Design, Saul Moran, said that the benefits of pet ownership should be more widely available to apartment owners.

He explained developers should be encouraging and planning for pet ownership – rather than just permitting it.

“Pets are good for us, and also good for our communities,” Mr Moran said.

“There is plenty of research showing the health benefits of owning a pet.

“One of the biggest benefits [of pet ownership] for the community is social cohesion – something we’ve witnessed through our developments at Wentworth Point and Rhodes.

“People with dogs stop and talk to each other because dogs create the environment for interaction.

“Feedback from residents in the area also tells us that having pet-friendly facilities makes apartment living a more desirable option.”

Wentworth Point resident Emily Ross met new neighbours and even formed a WhatsApp ‘puppy parent’ group after buying one-year-old Cavoodle, Wally, last year.

“My husband and I have lived in Wentworth Point for seven years and there are a lot of puppies around,” Mrs Ross said.

“Our lounge room looks onto one of the busier main streets and every couple of minutes a dog walks past and Wally looks out to spot his friends.

“Having Wally has created more connections for us. We are part of a puppy parent club. A group of us met in the summer last year before lockdown hit.

“We’d all walk our dogs and take them for a play. Wally made friends with the other dogs. My husband and I got talking to their owners.

Mrs Ross says creating a WhatsApp group had allowed the neighbours to stay in touch during lockdown and they share photos of their dogs, but also other things such as what they’ve cooked for dinner that night.

“My husband is a shift worker and we don’t have family super close but I feel comfortable to rely on the puppy parents’ group if I ever needed anything urgently,” she said.

“We’ve sort of created our own family.”

Mr Moran said there are clear benefits in encouraging pet ownership in these communities.

“The sense of community is stronger with residents making use of the shared spaces, meeting up and getting to know each other’s canine companions. Some of the local dogs have become local celebrities,” he said of Billbergia.

The property development group also noted the responsibilities that come with having more pets around.

“We need to consider the whole community and their visitors – not just pet owners,” Mr Moran said.

“So, we ensure there is extra support seven days a week to help keep the environment enjoyable for all.

“We provide free doggy litter bags and ensure common areas, such as footpaths, are cleaned twice daily.”

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