Mental Health & Equality for Australian Pet Owners

Five years ago, I asked a question: 
“Why do we have a No Pet By-Law when the building is full of pets. 
The Answer:
“It’s easier to control, if you want a pet, sneak it in like everyone else but leave the by-law alone”
What have we learnt from these “unprecedented times” if not that:

·     our personal circumstances can change dramatically from sources outside our direct control, and  
·     our wellbeing and mental health start at home. 
For many of us pets are family; for some the only family they have. Pets are an antidote to loneliness, anxiety and depression. Pets are indiscriminately loving and supportive. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of some strata schemes.
No one should have the right to deny anyone the unconditional love, support and companionship a pet brings to human lives. Pet owners should not be discriminated against.
With strata living increasing dramatically, now more than ever we must ensure pet owners and our pets feel loved and safe in our strata homes. 
With pets long welcomed into strata homes around the world, and indeed large parts of Australia, the recent NSW NCAT decision validating a blanket ban on pets in the Horizon building in Darlinghurst is absurd. It denigrates the value of pets and echoes practices such as the “black balling” of “undesirable” residents, assumed long dead.
The validity of indiscriminate, uncompromising by-laws banning the ownership of any pet (dogs, cats, birds, lizards et al) in strata schemes will remain entrenched if laws are not changed, and legislation not updated, to reflect the growing community recognition of the vast benefits of pet ownership, and support for pets and pet owners.
For those living in strata buildings with by-laws imposing a blanket ban on pets, irrespective of their intentions, or expectations when purchasing the apartment, if and when their life circumstances change, for whatever reason; or should ageing residents find themselves alone, and perhaps unexpectedly lonely, and seek the companionship and benefit of a pet, there are two options: 

Firstly, to apply to have the by-law changed which requires the support of 75% of those voting - this is near impossible to achieve, particularly in large strata buildings, for many very complicated reasons (naively, this is where my journey began), or secondly, to move - a prohibitively expensive and/or emotionally disruptive and debilitating exercise for many. 
The legislative exclusion of assistance and therapy pets from otherwise blanket pet bans is welcomed but applies only to a very narrow band of pet owners. 
For me, this has been a 5-year challenge which has become a full-time campaign. 
With your help and support I will appeal this NCAT decision at the Supreme Court of Appeal and lobby government to have strata legislation reflect the needs and rights of all pet loving owners and tenants in strata. I will also lobby for a code of conduct for committee members so strata living becomes more egalitarian rather than reflecting factional preferences.
Imagine having your pet, a family member ripped from your home because an owner’s corporation by-law? That’s not fair or right.
We need to be more tolerant and compassionate; no-one’s family looks the same; our happiness though is an equal right we all deserve. 
Help me save Angus & all our pets in strata from being discriminated against. Stand up for the beloved pets in our lives and for fairness in our homes.
Watch the following video for more information:


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Johanna Cooper 
Haymarket NSW
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