More Sydneysiders are becoming pet owners because of increasingly flexible-working policies and the new NSW laws that outlaw strata blanket pet bans. Andthis is leading to some unexpected, but welcome, connections that arestrengthening local communities.

Australia has one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world. Almost two-thirds of homes have at least one pet while about half of Australianhouseholds own a dog, according to University of Melbourne research from lastyear.1

Billbergia Group Development Director, Planning and Design, Saul Moran, saysthat the benefits of pet ownership should be more widely available toapartment owners. He believes developers should be encouraging and planningfor pet ownership – rather than just permitting it.

One of the company’s initiatives to promote pet ownership is the creation ofspecial puppy parking stations outside retail centres. Dogs can be ‘parked’safely while owners have a shop. The dedicated areas feature soft artificialturf, a tie-up point, all weather shelters, dog bowls, water and litter bags.

“Pets are good for us, and also good for our communities. There is plenty ofresearch showing the health benefits of owning a pet,” says Mr Moran.

“One of the biggest benefits for the community is social cohesion – somethingwe’ve witnessed through our developments at Wentworth Point and Rhodes. Peoplewith dogs stop and talk to each other because dogs create the environment forinteraction. Feedback from residents in the area also tells us that having petfriendly facilities makes apartment living a more desirable option.

“At Billbergia, given our philosophy of creating communities, we take thisinto account when we conceptualise our plans. For example, over the past fewyears, Billbergia has added dedicated pet friendly spaces into its newerdevelopments in Wentworth Point and Rhodes to encourage and support dogowners.

“In addition to ‘puppy parking’ space outside retail centres, we’ve integratedpuppy parks into multiple levels of our apartment buildings and ensured thereis ample green space for owners to walk their dogs. We have even provided‘off-leash’ areas and play spaces on communal rooftops in our largerdevelopments.”

But it’s not just Billbergia that has picked up on the desire for petownership in the area. Local businesses, such as Puppy Splash – a dog wash andgrooming salon – and Harbourside Vet Hospital have set up shop in the suburbto cater for the increasing demand.

Many residents and their pups also take advantage of the local BennelongBridge, which was funded by Billbergia and connects Wentworth Point andRhodes, to access longer waterfront walks around the peninsula.

Wentworth Point resident Emily Ross met new neighbours and even formed aWhatsApp ‘puppy parent’ group after buying one-year-old Cavoodle, Wally, lastyear.

“My husband and I have lived in Wentworth Point for seven years and there area lot of puppies around. Our lounge room looks onto one of the busier mainstreets and every couple of minutes a dog walks past and Wally looks out tospot his friends,” says Mrs Ross.

“Having Wally has created more connections for us. We are part of a puppyparent club. A group of us met in the summer last year before lockdown hit.We’d all walk our dogs and take them for a play. Wally made friends with theother dogs. My husband and I got talking to their owners.

“We now have a WhatsApp group and, during lockdown, while we haven’t been ableto physically meet up in the same way, we’ve stayed in contact. We might evenjust send each other photos of what we’ve cooked for dinner that night. Myhusband is a shift worker and we don’t have family super close but I feelcomfortable to rely on the puppy parents’ group if I ever needed anythingurgently. We’ve sort of created our own family.”

Mr Moran says there are clear benefits in encouraging pet ownership inBillbergia’s communities.

“The sense of community is stronger with residents making use of the sharedspaces, meeting up and getting to know each other’s canine companions. Some ofthe local dogs have become local celebrities,” he says.

The property development group, which lives by the philosophy of creatingcommunities, also understands the responsibilities that come with having morepets around.

“We need to consider the whole community and their visitors – not just petowners. So, we ensure there is extra support seven days a week to help keepthe environment enjoyable for all. We provide free doggy litter bags andensure common areas, such as footpaths, are cleaned twice daily,” says MrMoran.

Previous Farm dogs Jack and Jill lead the Cobber Challenge

Next Life in the Royal Doghouse! Meet the Pampered Pooches of Royals Aroundthe World