• Naree Pon

    COMPANION ANIMALS DESERVE CONSIDERATION IN RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS

    RESIDENTIAL TENANCIES AMENDMENT (REVIEW) BILL 2018

    Mark Pearson moved an amendment to the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018. The amendment would ensure that companion animals would be given consideration in residential tenancies for renters.  The amendment was supported by the Greens but not by the Government or Opposition.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): There being no objection, the bill will be taken as a whole. I have three sets of amendments: the Animal Justice Party amendment on sheet C2018-119A, the Opposition set of amendments on sheet C2018-123 and The Greens amendments on sheet C2018-122.

    The Hon. MARK PEARSON (11:50): I move the Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet 2018-119A:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises. This amendment is a double negative and relates to companion animals:

    No. 1Companion animals

    Page 3, Schedule 1. Insert after line 24:

    [2]Section 19 Prohibited terms

    Insert after section 19 (2) (e):

    (f)that a companion animal of a person who is lawfully residing on the residential premises is not permitted to be kept on the premises.

    The 2016 Census figures show that more than 30 per cent of households in Australia rely on rental accommodation for their housing needs. Combine that figure with the fact that 62 per cent of households have companion animals and we have a significant social problem with the lack of legal protections for tenants with companion animals. This problem is escalating as housing affordability causes many people to remain tenants, often for life. In Europe, where renting is the norm, there is legal recognition that tenants should not be unfairly restricted from experiences such as living with pets.

    A landlord may own a property to derive income and capital gains and it is obviously not unreasonable for them to want to protect that asset. As a society we recognise the benefit that private landlords bring to the housing sector for people who cannot afford to buy their own homes or who are not eligible for social housing. However, we must also acknowledge that the landlord’s asset is also the tenant’s home. I believe that it is entirely reasonable for tenants to be able to enjoy the same benefits of living with companion animals as do home owners. It also helps to address a terrible tragedy, that is, the increasing number of tenants who are forced to surrender their animals to pounds and shelters.

    RSPCA statistics show that 15 per cent of the dogs and cats that are surrendered are because people are moving house and cannot not find accommodation that allows companion animals. As a society we intervene in the operations of many commercial enterprises on the understanding that it is for the public good. We legislate to ensure that retailers must sell food that is not adulterated, that a motel owner cannot refuse to book a room for a gay couple, and that property developers must comply with building standards to ensure public safety. We do this because we believe that public health, welfare and fairness is important and that the “market” is unlikely to provide those protections if left to its own devices.

    Landlords are currently free to refuse tenants and the consequences are such that most landlords choose the easy option of not allowing any pets, without any consideration of the social, physical and psychological benefits that companion animals have in the lives of humans. We live in a society where single and older person households are on the rise. These two groups are at risk of social isolation. For older persons the isolation may be due to physical disabilities or illness. Both groups may struggle with the lack of social interaction leading to anxiety and depression. Psychiatrists at the University of Rochester Medical Center undertook research which found that those living with pets were 36 per cent less likely than non-pet owners to report loneliness. We know that human beings are social animals and that loneliness is a killer. Older adults who report feelings of loneliness are at an increased risk of many serious physical and mental health conditions, including death.

    There have been many research studies undertaken that show a raft of health benefits from living with companion animals. Human-animal relationship lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and people recovering from heart attacks recover more quickly and survive longer when there is a pet in the home. For people living alone, a companion animal may be the only affectionate touch they experience through their day. Petting an animal is known to release oxytocin, a hormone that reduces stress as well as boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which promote alertness and a sense of wellbeing. According to beyondblue, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and that in any one year approximately one million Australian adults will experience depression and more than two million will have anxiety.

    According to depression research, being responsible for the care of an animal promotes mental health. Self-esteem is improved when people realise they are capable of caring for another sentient being. For people debilitated by depression, living with a companion animal brings a structure to the day and may be the only reason that they are able to get out of bed. Feeding, caring and exercising a beloved animal provides positive feedback and helps with healing from depression. I note that the Victorian Government has recently amended its residential tenancy legislation to allow pets in rental accommodation and that the Queensland Government has a similar provision before its Parliament. If our sister States are able to recognise the case in favour of companion animals, then surely we can join them in that compassionate approach. Allowing tenants to have companion animals will not only significantly improve the wellbeing of people but also quite simply save lives, both human and animal. I commend the amendment.

    The Hon. CATHERINE CUSACK (11:56): The Animal Justice Party amendment is not supported by the Government. Companion animals are not defined under the Companion Animals Act 1998 as a dog or cat. Properties vary greatly and different types of pets may not be suitable for some properties. The landlord and tenant are best placed to negotiate on whether a particular pet would be appropriate for a property. The Residential Tenancies Act leaves the issue of whether a tenant can keep a pet—but not an assistance animal—to be negotiated between a landlord and tenant, and the Government considers that that is appropriate.

    Mr JUSTIN FIELD (11:57): The Greens support the amendment moved by the Hon. Mark Pearson on behalf of the Animal Justice Party. The Greens had a similar amendment to ensure that those living with companion animals are not unfairly impacted by these changes and that the Residential Tenancy Act supports them to continue to live with their pets. There are more people living in rental properties than ever before. Many of them have pets and these pets are an important part of their family. Certainly I have had that experience living in rental accommodation. I have been fortunate to find rental accommodation where it has been possible for my family to have our pets. I know how important our pets are to my young son. It is important that we keep families together, including the non-human parts of our families. The Greens support the amendments moved by the Animal Justice Party.

    The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE (11:58): The Opposition appreciates the intent of the amendment moved by the Animal Justice Party. We are concerned about the need to ensure that there are not unintended consequences. The best way of doing that is to have consulted fully with all stakeholders involved to ensure that the outcome is both fair and balanced and that there are no negative impacts that we are aware of. While we appreciate the intent, for the reasons I have outlined at this stage the Opposition does not support the amendment.

    The CHAIR (The Hon. Trevor Khan): The Hon. Mark Pearson has moved Animal Justice Party amendment No. 1 on sheet C2018-119A. The question is that the amendment be agreed to.

    Amendment negatived.

  • baby chicks

    CHILDREN AND THE NATURAL WORLD

    25th September 2018.  Mark Pearson’s speech on children and their natural empathy for animals.

    As adults we cannot fail to observe a child’s innocent delight in interactions with animals. On a more prosaic note, science tells us that a child’s amygdala, the most ancient part of the human brain, is hardwired to respond to other animals.  When measuring brain activity, scientists found that neurons in the amygdala became extremely active when the subject was shown pictures of animals. The right hemisphere of the amygdala is the storage space where young brains respond to emotional stimuli, creating categories of animals such as prey, play or predator.

    E.O. Wilson, a biologist, coined the term “biophilia” to describe the biologically determined affinity of humans with the natural world, including the inherent empathy humans have for other living beings. It explains the emotional desire to protect creatures that are small and vulnerable.

    Very young children are drawn to animals, especially baby animals. Babies are more likely to smile at, talk to and touch live animals rather than mechanical animal toys. Studies of the dreams of pre-school children reveal that as many as 90% of their dreams are about animals. There is also considerable evidence that children derive emotional sustenance from their companion animals, often talking to their pets when lonely, afraid or sad.

    Early childhood educators have recognised that children thrive when they spend time in natural settings that include opportunities for interactions with animals. .   Unlike adults who have been socialised into a transnational view of animals; what they can provide in the way of food, clothing or entertainment, children recognise the intrinsic value of animals; that simply because they are living creatures, they are important. Children innately understand that they are part of and not separate to, nature.

    As social media videos show, children have the openness and capacity to bond with any kind of animal. A chance encounter with an orphaned magpie can trigger a lifelong passion for native birds. When children are introduced to wild animals, a whole new world opens before them.  Even endemic wild creatures such as ducks, possums and lizards can absorb a child’s full attention

    The fictional wall that human society has built to delineate between human and animal is invisible to children. Children are curious to know about all the different ways of being an animal. As any story teller knows, a child is endlessly fascinated about animals live. They love to hear the sounds animal make, the homes they build, what and how they eat.  Children are amazed by the ability of animals to fly, swim through the water and climb high in the trees, or seem to disappear through camouflage.

    Introducing children to the natural environment and wild animals can help children develop empathy for animals.  Research also reveals that when children are encouraged to care for companion animals, they tend to be more sensitive and caring toward other people as well. A growing body of evidence shows that children who are supported in their care for animals tend to generalise that love to other living things.  Developing caring relationships with animal can lead to deeper feelings of empathy in young children, more positive peer relationships, and social-emotional development.

    As children have experiences with animals, they learn about differences and similarities, needs (such as for food, shelter, water and space), and compassion and empathy can grow and deepen.

    Conversely, if children are not exposed to the natural world in a positive way, their developing amygdala may only learn the fear response to animals and the natural world.  Their innate sense of connection to nature can be overridden by adult role modelling.  At worst, children may develop biophobia, an aversion to nature. Children may learn to become fearful of insects and animals not found in highly urbanised environments. These children are at risk of growing up to undervalue the environment and to have little regard for animals as sentient beings.

     

  • Adjournment Speech – Veterinarians Mental Health

    A series of studies conducted in recent years have identified elevated rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among Australian veterinarians, with a suicide rate four times higher than the general population. These figures are consistent with studies conducted in Great Britain and America. There is clearly a common thread concerning the mental health challenges of the profession. Murdoch University is currently conducting research on the mental health of Australian veterinarians, which will hopefully assist the profession in improving the mental well-being of its members.

    Multiple studies cite risk factors such as long hours and highly stressful decision-making, the difficulty of recruiting locums to take much needed breaks, and in rural areas these difficulties are compounded by professional isolation. These are common stressors across many professions, but there are additional emotional stressors, such as the regular killing of animals, combined with easy access to lethal drugs, that are unique to the veterinary profession. The 2016 Australian National Coronial Information System report noted a history of self-poisoning suicides linked to drugs available in veterinary clinics.

    While there are no equivalent Australian figures, British studies showed that 81 per cent of veterinarians entered the profession due to their desire to work with the human-animal bond. Women veterinarians in particular were identified as having high levels of empathy towards animals. This empathy towards animals may, in a large part, be the cause of the mental distress experienced by veterinarians. Across a range of international studies, young and female veterinarians are at greatest risk of job dissatisfaction, leading to mental health difficulties and suicidal ideation. “Compassion fatigue” or “vicarious trauma” was identified as a risk factor leading to suicide.

    The realities of veterinary practice can be emotionally gruelling. Many vets speak of the distress of being responsible for ending animals’ lives, either directly in the case of euthanising sick or injured animals, or worse, being required to kill perfectly healthy unwanted animals, or indirectly in the case of the slaughter of farmed animals. Vets also found themselves in professionally challenging situations where they encountered animal abuse and neglect. Some studies have questioned whether the routine euthanising or killing of animals impacted on attitudes towards death more generally.

    In surveys, vets showed higher support for human voluntary euthanasia than the general population. This attitude to death may even facilitate self-justification and lower their inhibitions towards suicide as a rational solution to their personal problems.

    As a society we could do a much better job of providing funding and resources to ensure that no vet is required to kill perfectly healthy animals that have been abandoned or surrendered to council pounds or RSPCA shelters. The growth of no-kill shelters not only is a more humane approach to companion animals but also removes the risk of psychological harm to vets who are forced to administer the “green dream” to healthy animals. Even the upside of being a veterinarian—having clients with strong emotional ties to their companion animals—could create distress. The emotional intensity of that bond adds stress when the time arrives for euthanising sick or aged animals that are considered part of the family.

    I commend the work of our veterinarians in alleviating animal suffering. My personal heroes are those vets who find the time to work pro bono or provide discounted fees to companion animal rescue groups, wildlife carers and farmed animal sanctuaries. Perhaps the Australian Veterinary Association may consider supporting veterinarians as they deliver these services as a way of providing a channel for their compassion and empathy towards animals.

  • Mark visits the South Coast to meet grassroots AJP members

    Mark Pearson addressed an enthusiastic and concerned local crowd of animal lovers and advocates at the Soldier’s Bay club in Batemans bay on Monday 19th of February.

    Mark discussed his work in parliament and his proposed bills on banning the whipping of racehorses, banning animals in circus and the Right to Release bill. Many local people expressed their concern at the annual Huntfest in Narooma which takes place on the June long weekend, in particular, the fact that organisers are billing this as a family friendly event. Concern was also expressed about the ongoing legitimacy of ‘sport’ fishing in the area given the extreme cruelty involved.

    There was a great amount of will in the room to start up a local South Coast branch of the Animal Justice Party in the region. Louise Ward the NSW State Director of the Animal Justice Party will be returning to the South Coast next month to work with local people in establishing a South Coast Animal Justice party regional group.

    Mark also met with representatives of Wildlife rescue South coast, south coast animal rescue, Coast to Coast animal friends along with other individual animal carers and rescuers. Of great concern is the loss of habitat for our native animals coupled with the threats posed by both legal and illegal hunting, leaving wildlife carers fear and fear safe places to release animals. We also heard of the incredible, personal, emotion and financial burden experienced by carers and rescuers, who spend thousands and sometime hundreds of thousands of dollars on the animals in their care, without any government assistance.

    Mark with a wildlife and rat rescue volunteer in Nowra.

    Mark with Leon from the Animal Justice Party Southern Highlands RG, as well as Woody, Kirsten, Greg and Justine from Wildlife Rescue South Coast.
  • Mark visits WW1 killing fields to pay respects to animals fallen in war

    Lest We Forget

    Throughout history, in war and in peace, animals and mankind have worked alongside each other.

    As “beasts of burden”, messengers, protectors, mascots, and friends, the war animals have demonstrated true valour and an enduring partnership with humans.

    The bond is unbreakable, their sacrifice great – we honour the animals of war.

    Mark has been spending the parliamentary break visiting the WW1 killing fields of Northern France.

    One destination was particularly poignant; the Animal War Memorial at Pozieres. Amidst the war graves of fallen soldiers there lies a small memorial garden set aside to honour those horses, donkeys, dogs, and pigeons that were conscripted into war service and killed in action. These forgotten heroes finally have a place where their sacrifice can be remembered.

    The Animal War Memorial at Pozieres was only opened in July 2017 and has already become a focal point for visitors around the world. The establishment of this memorial is owed in large part to Nigel Allsop, a former veteran who worked in all aspects of military canine operations and training, and who established the Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation. Allsop raised the funds for the Pozieres memorial, and has intentions to further enhance the the site with more statuary, in honour of animal war service.

    “I will honour and pay tribute to all those fallen in WWI – both human and non-human. Animals did not choose nor were conscripted to war but forced by our hand. Despite this, their loyalty and trust still came through.

    I am so appreciative of the French government and, in particular, the village residents and Mayor of Poziers for establishing a special Memorial for them there. A place where so many horses and dogs died from gun shot or a long lingering death from injuries whilst trapped in mud.

    What I discovered on this visit to Pozieres Australian Animal War Memorial is something I will never forget. Here, in only three weeks, more Australian soldiers and animals fell than anywhere else during WW1. These were just kids in uniforms and animals forced into a living hell. Despite this, even upon hearing the discharge of a bomb shell which they sensed could target them, horses and dogs were seen to lean over and ‘cover’ their soldier comrade to shield them from the impact. Horses with their heads, dogs with their bodies.

    Extraordinary.”

    Lest We Forget them too.

    Mark Pearson will be wearing a purple poppy during his visit, signifying the sacrifice of those animals who endured the horrors of the battlefields. Some 9 million horses and unknown numbers of other animals were killed during wartime. Tragically, surviving horses were denied return to Australia and soldiers were traumatised at having to leave their companions behind to an uncertain fate. Many shot their horses rather than risk their ill-treatment or slaughter for food.

    The “Animal” Poppy

    Most people are unaware that as well as the traditional red poppy worn to mark the Armistice Day of 11 November 1918, that there is also the purple poppy, worn in remembrance of the animals who died during conflict.

    The Australian War Animal Memorial Organisation (AWAMO) issued this purple poppy, intended to be worn alongside the traditional red one, to signify and pay respect to the sacrifice the animals made alongside their human comrades.

     

    Mark Pearson with Mayor Bernard Delattre at the Australian Animal War Memorial, Pozieres, France

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