Fast Facts

Dr Chris Brown urges Australia to be more pet-friendly

Image credit: Jacquie Manning

Dr Chris Brown will urge Sydney to be more pet friendly after research suggests the city is discouraging people from owning a furry friend.

As part of his #keepauspetfriendly campaign, Dr Chris Brown has met MPs and Ministers from across Australia to describe the many positive benefits of pet ownership, such as exercise, companionship and helping people make friends. A key focus for the campaign is encouraging community members, councils, policy and planning officials to work together and remember that pet ownership needs to be considered when making decisions.

“Owning a pet brings happiness to people’s lives and bonds communities together, so why are we making it so hard for people? I believe pet ownership should be encouraged as they give us simple joys that can help us in so many ways,” said Dr Chris Brown.

Sydney was recently named the least pet friendly city in Australia in a national study of cat and dog owners. #keepauspetfriendly, sponsored by Mars Petcare, aims to reverse the downward trend of pet populations in Australia by highlighting the many positive benefits of pet ownership.

Dr Chris Brown recently began a national tour of Australia to encourage greater pet friendliness and support responsible pet ownership.

Dr Chris Brown said:  “Most of our cities and towns have now become so non-inclusive of pets, that embarking on a simple walk is more akin to a stroll through a mine-field of potential fines, infringements and criticism. Or they’re simply not welcome at all.  For example, there are entire suburbs that simply ban cat ownership. My worry is that without someone speaking up, we might just regulate them out of our lives.”

Changes to NSW strata laws that will allow pets in new apartment buildings are seen as a positive step, especially as around half of people in NSW are predicted to be living or working in strata buildings by 2040. However, the new Strata Management Act is only applicable to new buildings. For existing buildings, new bylaws would have to be adopted by existing strata schemes to have any effect.

Dr Chris Brown said: “One of the reasons why pet populations are in decline is because Australian cities and states are not pet friendly enough. This campaign is tackling issues around improving pet friendly outdoor spaces, and better access to transport and rentals.”

In a survey of pet owners, improving access to (and the quality of) outdoor public areas is considered by far the most important attribute to pet owners across Australia. In Sydney, 35% said dog-friendly outdoor public areas was the most important factor in determining an area’s pet-friendliness.

With the number of people renting in Australia estimated to be around 30%, 1 in 10 people said pet friendly rental accommodation conditions was a key driver that impacted pet ownership.

Pet population data1 for the whole of Australia reveals that cat numbers have declined by 200,000 and dog numbers by 100,000 over 12 months. Since 2001, when there were 2.6 million cats, the feline population has declined by 15.5% to around 2.2 million Australia-wide. Dog numbers have been steady for over a decade, peaking at 4.2 million in 2009 and 2013, but the number of older “senior dogs” has increased, indicating that numbers will fall in the near future.

A third of cat owners (31%) and dog owners (34%) also currently look after a senior animal aged eight or more years old. The average life span for a dog is between 8-11 years (dependent on breed) and the average for a cat is between 12-15 years.

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