If only I could have a puppy … I’d call myself so very lucky

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Approximately three out of every five households in Australia include a pet and there are more pets in Australia than humans.

Studies also regularly show that pet ownership can bring reduced stress, lower blood pressure, increased social interaction and increased physical activity, all of which carry significant benefits for physical and mental health. Apparently billions of government dollars are saved as a result.

It’s also widely accepted that pets remind us of the simple pleasures in life.

However regardless of all of those positive things, it’s not always a simple thing to bring a pet with you when starting life in a retirement village or manufactured home residential park or acquiring a pet after you move in.

It doesn’t matter if its Garfield or Odie or Bluey or even Alice’s Cheshire cat there will be rules that determine if that furry family member can join you.

Most retirement villages and manufactured home residential parks will allow pets but a prospective resident must not assume that a particular village does this without first checking. If you intend to move to a village or park then you must be certain and obtain a clear understanding of the rules that apply to pet ownership at the particular village or park.

In the case of a retirement village the right to have a pet is usually covered in documents such as the Village Comparison Document, the Residence Contract, a Pet Policy, a pet by Law and in the case of a freehold retirement village the Community Management Statement By Laws as well.

In the case of a manufactured home residential park the right to have a pet is usually covered in the Site Agreement and Park Rules.

In addition to the documents that apply to any particular village or park the entitlement to have an animal is impacted by legislation such as Queensland’s Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 and the Commonwealth’s Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Those pieces of legislation would ordinarily override various prohibitions in village or park documents.

The pet ownership issues that the village or park documents will often cover include but aren’t limited to:

  • permitted or prohibited pet types and sizes;
  • temperament requirements;
  • obedience training requirements;
  • the present and future health of the pet;
  • where in the village or park can the pet be or do things;
  • the type of bad behaviour that will require that the pet must leave;
  • whether a new approval process is required for a pet intended to replace a deceased or removed pet;
  • requirements for arrangements to cover the pet owners illness, incapacity or death.

In addition to obtaining a clear understanding of the rules that apply it might be useful to know things such as:

  • how many pets are in the Village; and perhaps
  • how many applications for approval are denied and why they were denied.

A village or park with rules that seem to welcome pets but at which very few pets are approved, might sometimes be cause for concern. It might be a sign that the relevant rules are being applied very (too) strictly and that the village or park isn’t really that welcoming to pets.

Some might ask why there should be any pet ownership restrictions at all.

In any village or park, there are a variety of rights that essentially require that all residents should be able to reside at the village or park with limited interruption to their peace, safety and enjoyment of life. Accordingly it is reasonable to suggest that the rights of pet owners and pet non-owners need to be balanced. Further the age demographic in many villages or parks is such that it is also reasonable to suggest that care must be taken to address the likely heightened risk of things like:

  • a pet causing a resident to trip or fall; or
  • a pet causing serious sleep disturbances that carry adverse health effects.

Allowing pets in a village or park and policing the existence of pets carries many challenges for a village operator or park owner. It is not a role to be envied.

It is not only intending pet owners who should obtain a clear understanding of the rules that apply. If you do not intend to own a pet but do not begrudge a fellow resident from owning a pet then it would still be wise to understand how far the pet ownership might be allowed to impact on your lifestyle.

It might be one thing if there aren’t any pets near to you. But your view might change if there is suddenly a pet at the unit either side of your unit or in the case of a high rise in the unit either side of yours and below and above yours.

If you are having difficulty understanding the rules as to pet approval and ownership at a village or park or you need assistance with obtaining an approval, or defending a removal or complaining about a pet then don’t hesitate to contact us for advice and assistance.

Peter Porcellini

McColm Matsinger Lawyers

The information in this document represents general information and should not be relied on for your specific circumstances. If you require legal advice and assistance on the matters contained or associated in this document you should contact MMLaw.

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Disclaimer

The content published in this Blog is in the form of academic papers and the opinions expressed herein are generalised. The information provided is for educational purposes, not specific legal advice.

The application of any principles referred to can alter from case to case and accordingly you should seek independent legal advice in respect of your individual circumstances.

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