BY KENJI SATO
Bondi veterinarian and TV heartthrob Doctor Chris Brown has revealed that Sydney is one of the worst places to own a pet in Australia.
The Bondi vet took to Bondi Beach on Monday November 9 to announce the findings of the 2015 Pet Positives Score report, which compared the ‘pet friendliness’ of Australia’s major cities and states.
Sydney ranked 15th out of the 16 areas surveyed, triumphing over only the state of South Australia (not inclusive of Adelaide), which was found to be the very worst place to own a pet in Australia.
The research based its rankings on nine ‘pet-friendly’ criteria, including the accessibility of pet-friendly parks and the difficulty of owning pets in apartments.
Dr Brown said that he was surprised at the report’s findings.
“For a Sydneysider like me there’s some confronting news because Sydney hasn’t done so well,” he said.
“The big surprise of this research is that pet populations are shown to be in decline even though seemingly we love our pets more than we did before. In this day and age it seems like there’s no limit to what Australians will do for their pets.”
The report found that 39 per cent of dog owners and 40 per cent of cat owners view their pet as a ‘family member’. 36 per cent of dog and 26 per cent of cat owners see their pet like a ‘child or a baby’.
Dr Brown attributed the decline in pet ownership to the growing difficulty involved with owning a pet in Australia.
“The issue is that our cities and our regulators aren’t loving our pets as much as they should. When you compare Australia to the rest of the world, we’re falling behind in terms of how we see our animals. They’re almost seen as being a burden when we go out in public,” he said.
“Pet owners can’t find pet friendly beaches and parks. They don’t really find themselves being allowed in cafes and restaurants. That needs to change, and we find when pets are included in everyday society the more they’ll feel rewarded as animals but generally the pets will be happier and our population will be healthier.”
But local Coogee dog owner Claire Parker said Australia’s dogs and their owners were typically less well behaved than their European counterparts.
“Dog owners in Europe are far more responsible than in Sydney,” she said.
“Council regulations in Australia say that dogs should not be off leash, but if you look around Bondi or Coogee, there are thousands of dogs off leash which are causing problems on a daily basis.”
“For example, you may think your dog is well behaved, but it will see a cat or another dog and it scurries on to the road toward it, and a motorist will swerve to avoid it, which is potentially dangerous.”
Melbourne and the Gold Coast were tied first for being the most pet friendly areas in Australia.
Sylvia Burbery, Managing Director of Mars Petcare Australia, said that access to public transport was the factor that pushed Melbourne over the winning line.
“While some cities like Melbourne have access to public transportation and a wide variety of indoor and outdoor public areas for pets, others still have a ways to go in ensuring pets stay front of mind,” she said.
“It is clear from the Pet Positives Score results that while Australians love our pets, we aren’t doing enough to ensure that our communities and families continue to reap the benefits of pet ownership.”
Commenting on the advantages of pet ownership, Dr Chris Brown said that pets were a “good investment” because of the health benefits of owning a pet.
“They seem to help our health as a whole. People that own pets have better cardiovascular health, their blood pressure is lower and they handle things like anxiety and loneliness a lot better.”
Dr Hayley Christian, a Human-Animal Interaction Expert from the University of Western Sydney, said that pet owners exercised more, had greater self-esteem and were able to cope with social rejection better than non-pet owners.