Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world yet, only nine per cent of in-home aged care providers offer a pet friendly service.

This is according to Companion Animal Network Australia (Australia CAN), which is calling for action to improve elderly assisted living and prevent their pets from being surrendered.

Trish Ennis, CEO, Australia CAN, says that further to just nine per cent of in-home aged care providers offering a pet friendly service, only 18 per cent of aged facilities consider allowing residents to keep a pet.

As the Federal Government is reviewing Australia’s struggling in-home aged care system, Australia CAN is inviting the public to complete a Pet Friendly Aged Care Survey to help improve the lives of the elderly and their pets.

Ennis says that many studies have shown that caring for a pet can help to ease loneliness, relieve stress, anxiety and depression and provide unconditional love.

“Sadly, many elderly pet owners who depend on in-home assisted living and the daily companionship of their animals, lack the government support they desperately need,” she says.

A Federal Government Service List Advisory Body will be considering pet care assistance/ pet support as part of the new federally funded In-Home Aged Care Program due to come into effect in July 2024.

The decision on this will likely be made by around mid-2023 and will be critically important for thousands of frail-aged people dependent on care at home and who rely on and benefit from daily pet companionship.

Australia CAN is also asking the government to increase the number of pet friendly aged care facilities and to help promote the social benefits to aged care villages when they welcome pets.

Ennis says: “People who are separated from their pets upon entering an aged care facility often experience an extra layer of grief at a time of loss and sadness. People are putting their lives on the line when they refuse to move into aged care because they can’t bring their pet with them.

“If people were allowed to keep their pets, aged care take-up by elderly people will increase and the number of pets being surrendered to animal shelters will decrease. Now is the time to understand the value of pets and develop policies that recognise their role.”

Australia CAN’s aim is to support the elderly and their pets by talking to the Government about including pet support options in the Home Care Packages to prevent animals from being euthanised or surrendered to shelters and maximise the physical and emotional health of our pet-loving elderly.

Ennis concluded: “Please help to make pet care assistance/pet support possible by completing the quick survey on in-home pet support and share the survey widely with your pet-related networks and encourage them to help, too.”

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