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One in 10 abandoned pets dumped because owners can't find a pet-friendly rental

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 12/08/2017 Kate Burke
Marie Lumbroso, with her German shepherd Zac, is having difficulty finding a rental home that will allow her to have pets. © Janie Barrett Marie Lumbroso, with her German shepherd Zac, is having difficulty finding a rental home that will allow her to have pets.

Many desperate renters in Sydney are forced to abandon their beloved pets because they cannot find an animal-friendly place to live.

More than one in 10 pets surrendered to a Sydney animal shelter last financial year were given up because their owners couldn't find a rental property that would accept their pet.

"People are devastated," said Karen Davies, chief operating officer of Animal Welfare League NSW (AWLNSW). "They don't want to give them up, but they're left with little choice. 

"[Landlords] expect pets to be really disruptive but, to be honest, most kids cause more destruction than most pets."

Of the 1418 animals surrendered to AWL's Sydney shelters last financial year, 12.8 per cent were given up by struggling rental home hunters. That's up from 8 per cent the year before. 

"Dogs and cats are the main ones, but we also have people having to give up pocket pets like rabbits, guinea pigs and birds," Ms Davies said. 

"In other instances we've seen people choose to live on the street with their pets [instead of giving them up]."

More than one in 10 animals surrendered to Animal Welfare League NSW were given up because their owners couldn't find a pet-friendly rental. © AP More than one in 10 animals surrendered to Animal Welfare League NSW were given up because their owners couldn't find a pet-friendly rental. While more than 60 per cent of households in NSW have a pet, fewer than 10 per cent of properties for rent in Greater Sydney are advertised as pet-friendly, according to Domain Group listings data.

Schofields and Kellyville in the city's north-west have the most pet-friendly properties, while St Leonards and the CBD – which are dominated by apartments – have the least.

Aged care worker Marie Lumbroso is one renter struggling to find a place to live with her German shepherd Zac. For six years they lived in a private rental in Turramurra. Now she's hoping a good reference from her old landlord will help her secure a house in the inner west.

Marie Lumbroso says it's a shame more rentals aren't accepting of pets given how good they are for mental and physical health. © Janie Barrett Marie Lumbroso says it's a shame more rentals aren't accepting of pets given how good they are for mental and physical health. "​Everything I look at is like 'no pets', then when it's 'pets considered on application', they'll get an applicant that doesn't have any and go for them," she said. "I'm always going to get chosen last, and I think that's why a lot of people hide their pets.

"I have friends saying they want to get dogs, and I've said don't get one unless you own [a home].

"I want to be upfront about [having a dog] as he's a bit too big to hide."

Fellow inner-west pet owner Amy Barley said that, while she struggled to find a place for her and her two small terriers, it was fair for landlords to have the right to choose whether to accept pets in their properties.

"At the end of the day it's their property. I think they need to realise though that it's going to be nowhere near as bad as they think," she said.

Calls have been made to ban real estate agents and landlords from putting no-pet clauses in tenancy agreements. © Marina Oliphant Calls have been made to ban real estate agents and landlords from putting no-pet clauses in tenancy agreements. Having backyards dug up, floors and doors damaged and receiving noise complaints are among the biggest concerns for landlords, said property manager Gavin Purse of Century 21 All Aspects Realty Kellyville.

"Everyone freaks out when they hear bad stories. Yes, it does happen, but it's not too common," he said. "There are plenty of people that are not as clean and tidy as people with pets."

But the costs can add up. "If it's a cat a big issue can be carpet damage. If they've been urinating and it's soaked through and underneath you've got to rip it all up."

While pets can cause damage, it really comes down to the tenants the landlord chooses, said executive manger of Terri Scheer Insurance, Carolyn Parrella.

"Where we have had claims of pet damage, the tenants have also done a lot of damage themselves," she said. "It's not a case of just having pet damage."

She added landlords could look to pet agreements that could include requirements for professional cleaning, for the pet to remain outside and other measures to address concerns.

Tenants Union of NSW senior policy officer Ned Cutcher said it was time to ban real estate agents and landlords from being able to put clauses restricting pets in tenancy agreements.

"If you're within strata rules and council regulation it should be allowed," he said.

"Tenants are already liable for damage caused and as much damage could be caused by a friend that spills red wine everywhere as a pet that digs up the backyard."

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