Court clears hound for high-life as new ‘pet laws’ bite

A trio of tenants have won the right to keep a hunting dog in an inner-city pad, in one of the first cases to test Victoria's new rental pet laws.

A court this month found in favour of tenants James Webster, John Knowles and Tali Eades, who had been refused permission by their landlord to keep a German Shorthaired Pointer in their Richmond apartment.

The three-level townhouse has a rooftop terrace, and the landlord had feared the dog - a large, athletic breed - would jump off and hurt or kill itself, or a passer-by.

Owners' corporation rules also prohibited dogs in the apartment block.

Reggie the puppy is part of the family. Picture: Alex Coppel.
Reggie the puppy is part of the family. Picture: Alex Coppel.

 

But in one of the first court challenges to rental pet laws introduced in March this year, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) gave the green light for 10-week-old Reggie to live the Melbourne high-life.

The new legislation determined landlords could not "unreasonably refuse" applications from tenants to keep pets, and superseded the apartment's original tenancy agreement banning dogs, it said.

In the only other court case since the pet laws were introduced, VCAT on April 1 ordered a tenant could keep a "Catahoula cross bully stag" puppy called Rocko, despite the landlord's objections which were based on a previous bad experience with a dog damaging his property, additional insurance costs and his own allergies.

The tribunal in the earlier case said it was "not satisfied a landlord's medical condition is a valid ground for refusing consent" and allowed Rocko to stay in the regional Victorian property.

Real estate agent Sam Nokes, representing the Richmond landlord, said the new laws effectively cleared the way for tenants to keep any sort of dog, in any sort of rental property.

"It's going to take a bloody good reason to be able to decline a tenant having a pet, it's very clear that it's going to need a very airtight reason and I don't know what that reason is going to be … maybe the dog needs to have mauled the landlord on the leg before they're allowed to say no," he said.

But Mr Webster, Reggie's owner, promised his pooch wouldn't cause problems because he and his housemates - all young professionals - would exercise him regularly and rarely leave him alone, let alone unsupervised on the rooftop terrace.

A dog lover and fitness fanatic who works mostly from home, Mr Webster said Reggie would be taken on daily runs and to the nearby dog park.

He would also be properly trained.

"I wouldn't have picked a Pointer if I didn't think it was going to work with the living situation," Mr Webster said.

"If they get enough exercise through the day and go outside plenty of times, they're more than happy just to sleep and settle with you."

A "sleek but powerful", gun dog breed, German Shorthaired Pointers were "highly energetic, needing a lot of exercise and running opportunities", the tribunal heard.

"They can be best described as loving both an active life and human interaction. Lack of either will make them anxious, hyperactive, and destructive. They are clever and they will find their way to entertain themselves in less appropriate ways, as they will also manage to jump fences and escape enclosed spaces," it was told.

But the breed also made excellent pets because of their loyal, intuitive and protective natures, it heard.

"Reggie's lovely and he's going great," Mr Webster said. "He's so well natured … and he's easy to train. He's the best thing."

mandy.squires@news.com.au

Originally published as Court clears hound for high-life


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