Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world according to the Australian Veterinary Association:
“In 2016, it was estimated that there were more than 24 million pets in Australia. At 62%, Australia continues to have one of the highest household rates of pet ownership in the world with around 5.7 million of Australia’s 9.2 million households being home to a pet.
Dogs remain the most popular type of pet with almost two in five households (3.6 million) owning a dog. There was an estimated dog population of 4.8 million in 2016; 20 dogs for every 100 people. The dog population rose slightly from 2013 to 2016 by approximately 600,000.
Cats were the next most common type of pet with nearly three in 10 households owning a cat (2.7 million). While cat ownership remained stable from 2013 to 2016, the cat population increased from 3.3 million to 3.9 million during that period; 16 cats per 100 people.”
Sadly, when it comes to rental property leasing agencies and landlords there seems to be an extremely high incidence of discrimination—not only against pets but also against people with physical and/or psychological disabilities, whose health would benefit greatly from having a companion animal for assistance and support.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission:
“Assistance animals can provide a variety of support to alleviate the barriers people with disability experience in daily activities. In addition to animals that assist people who are blind or have low vision, assistance animals can also provide support to people who are deaf or hard of hearing; for people who require physical support for mobility or other functional tasks; people who experience episodic and serious medical crises (e.g. epilepsy, changes in blood pressure, or blood sugar); and people who experience psychiatric disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, hallucinations, panic attacks, or suicidal ideation.”
As someone who has been suffering from chronic pain for almost a decade, I have my cat who keeps me company and makes me laugh, and I feel her unconditional love for me (a rare quality in humans but one that abounds in animals). In point of fact, she is my family, but to many in the rental world she is merely a pet or an inconvenience landlords don't wish to acknowledge on their property.
So what’s next for these discriminating individuals? Banning human children because they’re noisy and like to draw on walls? Where does discrimination end? And if you’re a parent, how would you like to be told you cannot lease a certain property because of your kids? It’s ridiculous, right?
For those “non-animal” people out there, I would like to tell you that true “animal” people usually see no difference between animals and children. We care about our fur babies as much as we care about kids. They are all part of the family.
I recently began to compile a list of agency listings where it is mentioned that “pets are not permitted”, “pets will not be considered”, “no pets”, or worse still, the agency does not put anything about pets on their ad but wastes the potential tenant’s time by having them ring to enquire about the property, only to be told that “no pets are allowed”. I rang a number of agencies to this effect and I even explained my health situation and the reason for my support cat, all to no avail. I was simply told “no pets”.
It seems that many leasing agencies and landlords don’t really care about people with special needs, not even if they can pay the rent on time and are excellent and caring tenants. As an aside, I have to laugh at one agency that listed a property in Sydney recently and stated in their ad that pets were permitted for an extra $10 per week. Very enterprising of them if it weren’t so horribly grabbing.
So here is my message to agencies and landlords who choose to keep on discriminating against those who either wish to have a pet in their family or are in need of a pet for companionship, support and/or assistance:
Please be advised that under the Strata Schemes Management Act 2015, by-laws cannot prevent an Assistance or Support Animal from living with their owner in a rental property. Further, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, Section 9, as long as medical evidence is presented a leasing agency or landlord cannot discriminate against a disabled person as a complaint may be lodged with the Human Rights Commission for discrimination on the grounds of disability. Therefore, next time you advertise: No pets permitted or no pets considered, or if you don’t specify this in your ad but you still tell a potential tenant over the phone that no pets are allowed, you should take care that you know what you are doing and at the same time advise the landlord concerned that they may be in breach of the Act.
And please don’t “pooh, pooh” and dismiss what I say. It may be that one day, if life deals you a bad turn, it could be you who may reach out for a pet because you are in need of genuine and loving company or worse still you might be disabled and in need of a rental for you and your support animal, only to be told "no pets permitted".
And let's not forget that unconditional love comes in other forms too. Check out these wonderful animal beings that grace our planet.
Author Sylvia Massara's: