It's healthy to put out the welcome mat for our pets
June 08, 2016
An open letter by Dr Chris Brown to Australia
Australia, we need to talk.
If I’m honest, this has been coming for a while. But right now, I feel like we’re at a crossroads in our relationship. My biggest fear? That if we don’t speak up we might just lose our supposed best mates from our lives. Along with all the benefits this friendship brings.
I am, of course, talking about the hairiest and possibly happiest members of our community — our pets. The scruffy, slobbery and occasionally clumsy masters of unconditional love.
But here’s the issue. While our pets might love us, our cities’ attitudes to pets is often far from caring.
Most of our cities and towns have now become so non-inclusive of pets that a simple walk is more akin to a stroll through a minefield of potential fines, infringements and criticism. Or they’re simply not welcome at all — there are entire suburbs that ban cat ownership.
And without someone speaking up, we might just regulate pets out of our lives.
Sadly, this is already having an effect. For the first time in Australia’s history, pet populations are falling significantly. In just 12 months, cat populations have declined by 200,000 and dog numbers have dropped by 100,000. When you compare us to other countries around the world where ownership is increasing, our decline stands out like a dog’s ... well, you know.
So why is this such a problem?
Quite simply, pets make us happy. They wash away our worries while showing us how life should be lived. And pets are proven to also make us healthier.
Research shows that having a pet in your home means children are less likely to catch colds, need antibiotics or develop asthma. And throughout life having a furry family member leads to more exercise, lower blood pressure, fewer visits to the doctor, better cardiovascular health and an easing of loneliness.
So not only do pets make great personal trainers, they are hairy health care professionals. Every day, I see how beneficial pets are for all kinds of people, on a physical, mental and emotional level. If we lose pets from our communities then the health cost to all of us could be huge.
Having pet-friendly places is one of the best ways to support pets and their owners.
But a study last year into the pet-friendliness of Australian cities produced worryingly low results across the board — and Sydney came in at the bottom. We might be a nation of pet lovers but our cities are certainly not very pet-friendly. The time has come in 2016 for Australia to catch up to the rest of the world.
Rather than focusing on potential problems of pets, nations throughout Europe and North America seem more willing to embrace all the positives they provide. Not only do pets have more exercise areas to let out that excess energy, they’re also accepted travel companions (on planes, trains and buses), dining companions (at restaurants and cafes) and even hotel guests.
They’ve made these changes and haven’t suffered with piles of poo or hurricanes of pet hair ruining their streets. That’s because owners feel the pressure to be responsible. More relaxed pet laws are seen as a privilege.
Over the next six months, I will be reaching out to all Australians through social media, visiting communities of pet lovers and speaking to all levels of government to raise awareness of these issues to see what can be done.
As a start, we need more pet-friendly rental properties, transport, cafes and outdoor spaces.
Let’s stand up for creatures that repeatedly stand up for us. We must act now or risk losing our best mates and all the benefits they bring forever.
So, together, let’s #keepauspetfriendly before it’s too late.
Follow the campaign's official Facebook page, Keep Australia Pet Friendly: https://www.facebook.com/keepauspetfriendly/?fref=ts