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The cost of pet ownership

Insight spoke to guests who prioritize their pets and make personal and financial sacrifices to ensure their furry friends are happy and healthy. Watch Pet Prices Tuesday, August 2 from 8:30pm on SBS or SBS .
Australians spend more money caring for their pets than on medication for themselves.
almost owning a pet today, Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. In fact, there are more pets (), than people () in Australia.
One million pets were acquired during the pandemic. Dogs, followed by cats, are the most popular, withestimating Australians spend $30 billion a year caring for them. That’s $5 billion more than what people spend on personal .
For Emma Buhse, that meant choosing her pet over secure housing.
Ms Buhse told Insight that while her dog Nutmeg was a barrier to securing a rental, she’d rather remain without her own home than give up her adopted pet.
“It becomes very hard to find somewhere and a lot of the time, it is coming down to, they won’t allow pets in the rental,” Ms Buhse said.
“The choice is clear for me. I’m keeping her, she’s my dog.
“I have actually had people tell me to give my dog ​​away to have a better chance [of securing a rental]. I’d rather eat glass than abandon my dog.”

Ms Buhse suffers chronic pain from a disability that reduces her mobility. She said adopting Nutmeg from a refuge had given her a reason to get up every morning. It also prompted her to get a wheelchair so she could keep up with Nutmeg and get out of the house.

Emma and Nutmeg

“She keeps me going each and every day,” Ms Buhse told Insight.

“I have a lot of pain in my life…I literally wake up of a morning with my shoulders out of their sockets and so some mornings, you’re just like, why bother?
“But, you know, [Nutmeg’s] at the end of the bed, she’s got to go to the toilet, you got to give her [breakfast] and you got to take her out for a walk…she’s something to focus on other than what is happening immediately.”
Ms Buhse also spends most of her disability pension on food, treats and medical care for Nutmeg, whom she considers her “best friend”.
It’s a sentiment shared by Lauren Packham, who spent her $40,000 house deposit on medical bills for her best mates – her dogs Roxy and Nicki – who both had cancer.

Ms Packham also found herself temporarily homeless, living in an old leaky bus with her dogs and her parrot.

Lauren's dog Roxy in a garden

Lauren’s dog Roxy

“I have previously been homeless for a short term because of my dogs,” Ms Packham told Insight.

“We did secure a house, but there was over a month wait on that, so we stayed in an old bus… but I chose to do that for the dogs.”
Tenancy laws vary across each state and territory. From October 2022, new tenancy laws in Ms Buhse’s home state of Queensland will make it harder for landlords to refuse pets, bringing it in line with tenancy laws in Victoria and the ACT.
Penny Carr, CEO of Tenants Queensland, welcomed the changes but said they don’t go far enough.
“These changes will go some way to helping tenants remain with their pets, but they are not strong enough,” Carr said.
Ms Bushe is hopeful, but cautious.
“I like the idea of ​​it, but it would only work for people who already have a lease – landlords can still discriminate against those currently applying for rentals with pets.”

“I just want landlords and real estate agents to take us on a case-by-case basis. Not all pets are destructive and not all tenants are irresponsible pet owners. There needs to be more understanding.”

Nutmeg sitting on Emma's lap


In NSW, landlords can, and often do, include a clause in their lease restricting pets.

Leo Patterson Ross, CEO of the Tenants’ Union of NSW, said Australia’s tenancy laws are not in step with the “rich body of research” showing the many benefits of living with pets.

“Studies show having a pet is a very strong mental health support, and that the companionship of pets is really important for those who live alone and have mobility issues,” Mr Patterson Ross explained.

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