Whether they’re big and furry, small and scaly, or covered in feathers, pets are an important part of our everyday lives and provide a number of benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing.
In fact, almost two thirds of Australian households currently own a pet and over 60% of dog and cat owners regard their pet as a family member. And so it is no surprise that most people would like to take their furry companions with them when the time comes to transition into retirement living.
Over the past few years, retirement village operators have started to acknowledge the benefits of pet ownership, which has resulted in a shift away from the strict ‘no pets’ policies to a more flexible approach. But each retirement village has their own set of rules to ensure that all residents, regardless of if they have a pet or not, can feel comfortable and relaxed.
What is a pet policy?
Pet friendly retirement villages will have a document called a ‘pet policy’, sometimes also referred to as ‘pet guidelines’, which you will be required to acknowledge and sign before you move in.
Pet policies are not mentioned in the Retirement Village Act and so it is up to each individual operator to create a fair set of guidelines to protect the rights of pet owners and non-owners alike.
Here are some important considerations to keep in mind when you are reviewing a pet policy.
What types of pets are allowed, and are there any restrictions?
Nowadays, most retirement villages will allow you to bring a small pet. In some instances, they may even allow you to have two small dogs or cats, or a dog and a cat.
There may also be rules around other animals, such as birds and reptiles, and so it’s best to ask about all the types of living creatures that are permitted.
It’s also important to take note of any requirements you must adhere to, for example must the pet always remain indoors? Or does it need to have completed obedience training?
For us here at Oak Tree, not only is pet ownership encouraged, but we also promote residents having them because we know they provide companionship and comfort. With two-thirds of Oak Tree villas occupied by single female residents, we know pet ownership is hugely important to them.
We consider all pets in our villages. From dogs and cats to birds, lizards, snakes – even insects. We treat every request on its own merit, but we do have restrictions on size. For example, if someone had two very large dogs which we felt could be a safety risk to our residents, then those animals may be rejected. But in 20 years as Managing Director at Oak Tree, I cannot recall anyone’s pets being rejected. That’s because our pet guidelines are clear and easily understood.
What happens when a pet passes away? Will residents be permitted to have a new pet?
Sadly, pets don’t live forever, and unfortunately, there will come a time when they pass. Should this happen, what are the rules around getting a new companion? Is this something that is permitted?
Here at Oak Tree, we are one of the few operators that allow residents to replace pets after they have passed away, given that they meet the criteria of the pet policy.
Other considerations to make when choosing a pet-friendly retirement village
In addition to the pet policy, here are some additional considerations to keep in mind when looking for the perfect pet-friendly retirement village.
Is there plenty of space within the village or nearby for daily walks?
Taking your dog out for a walk is a great opportunity to get outside, get some fresh air and keep your body moving. Be sure to check if there is a walking path within the village or somewhere nearby, perhaps there is an off-leash area or a dog park you could go to.
Are there socialising opportunities available for your pet?
Before you move in, find out what animals already reside there and if there are any pet facilities or programs available. Perhaps there is a dog walking group or a regular puppy play date set up that you and your pooch can participate in.
It’s also good to note if there is scope for visitors to bring their pets with them. For example, are you able to look after a loved one’s pet if they ask you to pet sit?
Is there a vet close by?
From regular check-ups to health emergencies, having a vet close by can give you peace of mind that your pet can get help when it needs it.
What about non-pet owners?
Whether you have a pet or not, it’s important that the rights of both owners and non-owners are protected so that everyone can happily coexist
At Oak Tree, we ask our residents to complete a Pet Application form prior to moving in, along with the Pet Policy and Agreement to read, accept and observe. The policy also reassures non-pet owners that we will deal with any pet issues should they arise.
Allowing pets in our Oak Tree villages has proven to be a very manageable and successful part of our operations. And this won’t be any different for our vertical villages either – we encourage pet ownership in both living styles.
Considering retirement living?
Oak Tree Retirement Villages have partnered with Starts at 60 to help you navigate your move and make sure you have all the facts about moving to a retirement village.
Download your free copy of ‘Considering a Retirement Village: The Ultimate Checklist’ for everything you need to know before you start your journey into retirement living.
This story first appeared on Starts at 60.