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09-01-2007 - Decline in pet numbers blamed on shrinking backyard Fewer backyards and overly restrictive local government regulations could be behind the latest figures showing a decline in pet ownership in Australia according to the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA).

A report released by the Australian Companion Animal Council reveals that estimated dog and cat populations are both in decline.

The estimated dog population of 3.75 million has been in decline since 2002, and the estimated population of 2.43 million cats has been in decline for more than 10 years. However, pet ownership by Australians remains high compared to other countries, with an estimated 63 per cent of households owning some kind of pet, and 53 per cent owning a cat or dog.

President of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA), Dr Kersti Seksel said that the trend should be of concern, because pets add to the quality of our lives.

“Many Australians grew up on quarter-acre blocks where there was plenty of room to run around the backyard with a pet. Modern suburban dwellings are much less likely to have a big backyard, which tends to restrict choices about pet ownership,” Dr Seksel said. “Australian children these days are much more likely to be sitting inside playing with video games than running around the backyard, which I think is a shame. Keeping a pet also teaches us about caring for others.

“There is a vast array of evidence pointing to health and other benefits enjoyed by pet owners. But perhaps more importantly, owning a pet is a simple joy and encourages everyone to enjoy a more active lifestyle,” Dr Seksel said.

Dr Seksel said that local governments could do more to provide pet friendly environments.

“While there may be fewer dogs around these days, many people are having them trained as pups, so that they are not a nuisance to the general public. A range of new services are now available, such as animal day-care, pet walkers and groomers that have emerged to meet their needs. Local governments should recognise this trend by offering more public access for people and their pets. “

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