What can pet owners do with the increase in apartment living

Australia is a nation that loves its pets. As apartment living becomes more popular, strata regulations restricting the keeping of pets are putting this culture at greater risk. Are these laws outdated?

NSW Fair Trading released a Review of Strata Regulation. The review of pet-related model bylaws is one of the key changes. The proposed bylaws make it easier for residents of strata schemes, such as apartments or townhouses, to keep pets.

What are the proposed changes?

Strata Schemes Development Act incorporates Three model bylaws. One of them bans pets. The proposed model bylaws eliminate this option.

Also, modifications to the retained bylaws are proposed. A clause that allows small dogs currently requires people to “carry the dog when it’s on the common property.” The review suggests to replace this clause with one that does not mention size and instead requires owners to “supervise their animal while it is on the common property.”

The model bylaws are being revised. The right of strata communities to adopt their own bylaws, restricting pets or not, will remain.

Why should we support the change?

According to anecdotal reports, animals are prohibited in the majority of strata schemes. This is especially true for apartment buildings. The market is changing.

Pet-friendly apartments are becoming more popular. AAP

Pet-friendly apartments continue to be offered for sale in increasing numbers. In recent years, it is not unusual to see apartment advertisements featuring a cute dog. Developers often use pet-friendly status as part of their sales strategy, believing that it will increase market appeal.

The cultural significance of pet ownership is reflected in the growing support for pet keeping among strata communities. Over 60% of Australian homes have at least one pet, the most common being dogs or cats. These animals are not just pets: 88% see them as members of the family.

Pet restrictions are a major barrier to apartment life. These rules may force owners to give up their pets. This can lead to euthanasia and can be disastrous for the owner. Bylaws that restrict the sale of apartments can also reduce the market available to people who are trying to sell their apartments.

Pets are a great asset to the community. Pets have more than just promoting good health and well-being or acting as a cushion against loneliness. They also create a “ripple” effect on neighborhood interactions; they can help to build a community.

The results of my research on dog owners living in Sydney apartments show this. My interviewees reported that they had more social interaction with their neighbors after getting a dog. Dogs helped people be more recognizable by their neighbors, and they also served as a way to break the ice.

I don’t like to live next to a dog that barks!

The size of the dog is not the only factor to consider when deciding whether it will be suitable for an apartment. Other issues, such as barking, must also be addressed. Aine/FlickrCC BY-SA

Barking dogs are a major concern for people when it comes to allowing pets into apartments. Remember, however, that most dogs do not bark annoyingly.

In 39% of households, there are already dogs in Australia. Most of these dogs are so hidden that you wouldn’t know they were there.

The same can be done for apartment barking as it is in detached housing. Talk to the dog owner and involve the local council, if necessary.

Apartments also add another layer of regulations. Pets are also subject to the same noise laws that apply to neighbors who play loud music at night.

What is wrong with current rules?

Existing model bylaws are overly restrictive. Some “other concerning” bylaws are designed to ensure that animals don’t negatively impact the experience of other residents in the building. However, others (such as pet bans for all strata buildings) are “self-regarding.”

These bylaws don’t regulate specific behaviors that could have an impact on other residents, such as barking. These are, instead, blanket restrictions that limit the choices of residents regardless of whether they would impact others.

This current bylaw model that favors small dogs can be a good example of a “other regulating bylaw.” The bylaw also has a “sting in the tail”: Some large dogs have a behavior that is well suited for apartment living, while other small dogs can be high energy and are not as served unless they are kept by someone with enough energy to keep them.

Current bylaws encourage the ownership of pets who are not suitable for apartment living.

What else is needed?

The public can comment on proposed changes to strata regulations in NSW until May 27, 2016. Strata schemes that are newly formed should be encouraged, if the proposed changes are approved, to adopt pet-friendly bylaws. Bylaws can be changed to make existing schemes more pet-friendly.

Including guinea pigs, many pets enjoy having a good view. Castaway In Scotland/Flickr CC-BY-NC

Pet-friendly apartment design and urban planning are needed to help people live happily with their companion animals. Good soundproofing measures, windows and ledges that let animals see out, and pet-friendly spaces around and in apartment buildings, including gardens and local parks, are all good design measures for people and pets.

We should also encourage good neighborliness. Recent research (including mine with pet owners) suggests that neighbors in strata communities are more likely to make formal complaints than simply knock on the door.

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