Brisbane vet Michael O’Donoghue has seen too many people have to give up, or put down, their pets because they could not find a rental property that welcomed animals.
“It’s very heart-breaking, people euthanising their beloved pet because they can’t find accommodation,” he said.
The People and Pets veterinarian is pushing for more pet-friendly rental properties to be made available to encourage more families to adopt animals and stop the displacement of loved family members.
According to the RSPCA, 30 per cent of pets surrendered to the organisation are from owners who cannot find adequate accommodation.
Mr O’Donoghue’s effort to publicise the need for more pet-friendly rentals, and his ideas for homes to be built to be more welcoming to cats and dogs, have been praised by the celebrity vet Katrina Warren as part of a competition calling for ways to create a pet-friendly world.
His perspective is also shared by Tenants Union of Queensland coordinator Penny Carr, who said renters struggled to find properties that allowed pets and often had to settle for homes which were unsuitable in the short term while finding a new home.
“It’s really difficult and I think it is really unfair especially for kids who are denied having a pet as a child because of these unreasonable restrictions,” she said.
The Residential Tenancies Authority states a tenant can only keep pets on a premises if their tenancy agreement states pets are allowed.
It does not allow landlords to make pet owners pay a larger bond.
Property Owners Association of Queensland president Bruce McBryde said, apart from body corporates and real estate agents warning against landlords allowing pets, owners were also wary of the cost of damage to their properties and the difficulties in recouping those costs.
He said it was difficult to get tenants to take responsibility for damage caused by pets to rental properties since the RTA allowed for no extra protection for landlords.
“Ideally if you really want to make landlords more pet friendly you need to change the regulations to allow them to take a bigger bond,” Mr McBryde said.
“At least then the landlord would have more incentive.”
Mr McBryde also suggested routine treatment for carpeted homes.
“Perhaps in the legislation it could be mandated that if you have carpet you would need to have a flea treatment before you leave the property, similar to how tenants have the carpets shampooed,” he said.
Mr O’Donoghue was supportive of the idea of mandating flea treatments when a pet owner leaves a carpeted property.
But he did not believe dogs and cats were more destructive than children or teenagers.
“Generally a normal bond should cover any sort of damage a pet could possibly do, it is only going to be a scratch on the wall or replace a bit of carpet,” he said.
“But I find in my own personal experience that young children are more destructive to houses than pets are.”
Ms Carr agreed.
“Tenants already have an obligation to restore the property to the same condition as it was when they got it except for fair wear and tear,” she said.
“If tenants don’t restore their property there can be a claim against their bond and sometimes there are orders over and above the bond for tenants to compensate.”
Ms Carr said she would love to run a test case on whether pet owners had a right to house pets on their rental property.
“I think there is an argument in saying that not allowing pets is a breach of the right to ‘quiet enjoyment of the property’,” she said.
“You have a contract which says this is your home and you can’t do anything illegal in that home, but other than that you have a right to peace and comfort and privacy in using that property.”
RSPCA spokesman Michael Beatty said the organisation urged landlords to be a lot more sympathetic to people who want to have pets.
“If you look at it logically someone who is going to take good care of their animal is going to take good care of their property,” he said.
Mr Beatty said the Companion Animal Council provided contracts for landlords and tenants to sign when entering an agreement to allow pets on to a property.
Story by Dan Nancarrow, www.domain.com.au