More Sydneysiders are becoming pet owners because of increasingly flexible-working policies and the new NSW laws that outlaw strata blanket pet bans. And this is leading to some unexpected, but welcome, connections that are strengthening local communities.
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 from last year.1
Billbergia Group Development Director, Planning and Design, Saul Moran, says that the benefits of pet ownership should be more widely available to apartment owners. He believes developers should be encouraging and planning for pet ownership – rather than just permitting it.
One of the company’s initiatives to promote pet ownership is the creation of special puppy parking stations outside retail centres. Dogs can be ‘parked’ safely while owners have a shop. The dedicated areas feature soft artificial turf, a tie-up point, all weather shelters, dog bowls, water and litter bags.
“Pets are good for us, and also good for our communities. There is plenty of research showing the health benefits of owning a pet,” says Mr Moran.
“One of the biggest benefits 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.
“At Billbergia, given our philosophy of creating communities, we take this into account when we conceptualise our plans. For example, over the past few years, Billbergia has added dedicated pet friendly spaces into its newer developments in Wentworth Point and Rhodes to encourage and support dog owners.
“In addition to ‘puppy parking’ space outside retail centres, we’ve integrated puppy parks into multiple levels of our apartment buildings and ensured there is ample green space for owners to walk their dogs. We have even provided ‘off-leash’ areas and play spaces on communal rooftops in our larger developments.”
But it’s not just Billbergia that has picked up on the desire for pet ownership in the area. Local businesses, such as Puppy Splash – a dog wash and grooming salon – and Harbourside Vet Hospital have set up shop in the suburb to cater for the increasing demand.
Many residents and their pups also take advantage of the local Bennelong Bridge, which was funded by Billbergia and connects Wentworth Point and Rhodes, to access longer waterfront walks around the peninsula.
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. 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,” says Mrs Ross.
“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.
“We now have a WhatsApp group and, during lockdown, while we haven’t been able to physically meet up in the same way, we’ve stayed in contact. We might even just send each other photos of what we’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. We’ve sort of created our own family.”
Mr Moran says there are clear benefits in encouraging pet ownership in Billbergia’s 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 says.
The property development group, which lives by the philosophy of creating communities, also understands the responsibilities that come with having more pets around.
“We need to consider the whole community and their visitors – not just pet owners. 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,” says Mr Moran.
1 Hannink, N. (2020). Pets and Australians: Who has what? Accessed August 2021. Available at: https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/hilda-pets-and-australians-who-has-what