We know that 69% of Australian households share their lives and homes with an animal (most commonly a dog) and for most of us, we regard these animals as treasured family members. It is not surprising that we want to share as much time as possible with these beloved companions.
Despite our close relationship with our pets, the NSW Companion Animals Act focuses more on limiting where they can share public space, rather than facilitating socialisation for humans and their pets. Current tenancy laws also make it easy for landlords to discriminate against tenants who wish to live with their pets.
Currently in NSW, animals may be allowed to travel on public transport if the animal is contained in a box or basket However, it is an ad hoc system, as permission is required by staff or the driver on the day.
We recognise the importance of the human-animal bond, particularly for people who live alone, people who experience mental illness and people who have experienced family violence, including children. ‘Therapy dogs’ and ‘emotional support dogs’ are not categorised as assistance animals for the purposes of public transport travel.
In many European countries it is quite common to see pets in public places such as restaurants, shopping centres, public transport and entertainment places.
In Italy and France it is unlawful for landlords to discriminate against tenants with pets. The Animal Justice Party considers that this should be the standard in NSW with some limited exemptions.
We consider our current laws regarding pets to be unnecessarily restrictive. Pets should not be excluded from housing, restaurants, shopping centres, public transport and entertainment places unless there are compelling reasons concerning public health and safety.
Pets in Rental accommodation
Given the high cost of home ownership, more people are living in rental accommodation and for longer periods of time. One-third of NSW residents are tenants and many of those struggle to find rental properties that allow pets.
While there is no term in the Residential Tenancies Act that prohibits tenants from keeping a pet, or which requires them to ask for their landlord's permission before keeping a pet, landlords can disallow pets in their home without a specific reason. They are also able to list a blanket 'no pets' rule before considering a tenant's application.
Thousands of healthy cats and dogs are being surrendered to pounds and shelters due to the lack of pet-friendly rentals.
In NSW, over 10,000 healthy dogs and cats, with the majority being cats, are killed every year – simply because they are homeless.
In the current rental crisis, many families and individuals are struggling to find affordable housing, let alone housing that permits them to move in with their pet. People shouldn’t be forced to leave an animal family member behind in order to secure housing.
Women escaping violence cannot rebuild their lives with their children and animals if they face barriers to accessing safe and affordable housing. Rental vacancy rates are at historically low levels and rental costs are continuing to soar in areas, forcing many women to choose between homelessness or remaining with a violent partner.
We are advocating for a rental system that makes it easier for people to rent with the animals in their care. We will legislate for a presumption that a tenant has the right to live with their pets with limited exclusions allowing landlords to seek an exemption from the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
We will amend the Residential Tenancies Act to:
- give tenants the legal presumption that they can live in their rental home with pets
make it unlawful for landlords to
- advertise “no pets” tenancies
- discriminate against tenant applicants with pets
- require pet bonds.
* We will limit the grounds under which landlords can seek to exclude pets from tenancies.
Public Transport and Public Places
We are advocating for animal-friendly communities where people can socialise with each other and their pets.
We want animals to be permitted to travel on public transport to make it easier for people to participate in recreational activities with their pets, such as visits to dog parks and dog-friendly beaches.
Assistance animals are approved for travel on public transport and there is no evidence that this has caused any health or safety issues for the general public.
Not all pets have access to private transport, so allowing access to public transport means that all animals will be able to access health and medical care when they require it.
This will also allow people who do not have cars, or who are restricted from driving due to their age or a disability, to be able to safely transport animals with them on a bus or train. Animal-friendly public transport will also lead to a reduction in car trips, thereby reducing vehicles on already congested roads.
Update NSW laws and regulations to better reflect the social and cultural changes in attitudes towards pets as being part of the family.
Amend the Companion Animals Act to remove restrictions on pets in cafes, pubs and restaurants and expand rights to include entertainment venues where it is safe and practical to do so.
- Change transport regulations to permit animals to travel on public transport.
- Advocate for an ‘animal friendly carriage’ system on trains, buses and ferries, like the current ‘quiet carriage’ system.