Tasmanians have one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world and pets are integral members of many of our families.

We’ve all heard about the shortage of rental properties, so finding a home to rent can be hard enough – but, when you have a pet, it can be twice as tricky.

A survey last year showed that only one in eight rentals advertised in the greater Hobart area would consider people with pets. Tenants need permission to keep any type of pet, whether it’s a cat, a goldfish, or a hermit crab – and landlords can refuse without having to give any additional reason, except if it’s a guide dog or service animal.

In these tough times, people’s circumstances can change rapidly – marriages break up, people lose their jobs or have to move for work, or landlords unexpectedly decide to sell their flat.

Every day, the RSPCA receives calls from people who are facing homelessness – and some people are having to make a heartbreaking decision to choose between their pets and finding somewhere to live.

That’s why the announcement earlier this week that a re-elected state government would change rental laws to make it easier for families with pets to find new homes has been welcomed by many.

In making this announcement, Premier Rockliff said renters shouldn’t have to choose between having a place to live, and the pet they love. And he is right.

We know that most people care for their pets as they care for other members of their family: they look after their health and hygiene, exercise and entertainment; they clean up after them; and generally care well for them.

Personal responsibility, not pet status, is the key. Just think about the number of million dollar properties that have pets padding the hallways without any disastrous effects. With the right pet and a responsible tenant, this reality can be true for any rental property.

Over recent years, new laws have been introduced in most states which basically say that tenants are allowed pets in rental properties. There has been no evidence that these changes have impacted negatively on the number of properties available for rent.

In fact, there is evidence that shows pets can be a lower risk option for landlords than children, and that pet owners are statistically more willing to sign a longer lease. Pet friendliness adds value, which means more applicants who may even be willing to pay a higher rent.

In challenging times like these, people need the security and comfort they get from their pets.

The RSPCA regularly calls on the government to ensure that the importance of companion animals is recognised in all state legislation and policies. This announcement is a step in the right direction.

The detail of the proposed changes needs tobe worked out, but there is no doubt that this relatively minor amendment to rental laws in Tasmania would mean families no longer have to face unimaginable choices.

This would be a great outcome for both the animals and their owners – and we encourage all those standing for election to support this policy initiative.

Jan Davis, Chief Advocate – RSPCA Tasmania
Mobile: 0409 004 228
Email: jdavis@rspcatas.org.au