Article: Speak Easy

Is It Worth  Having A Pet? with Michael BoturIs It Worth Having A Pet? with Michael Botur

Pets lower property value, but they also improve the lives of property owners. So are pets worth it in the end? At my place we have three mentally ill chickens, one cancerous cat, and multitudes of guinea pigs which are either fully grown, newborn or pre-birth. All pets declined to be interviewed for this column, but I’ll press on.

The majority of rental listings in Northland say No Pets, at least according to TradeMe, and if you are asking a rental agency if you can bring a pet, you’re likely to be opening a can of worms about cat doors and dog doors, none of which make you look like a better prospective tenant.

Pets may stain the carpet, scratch doors, break things, set off burglar alarms, smell, poop and make noise. My neighbours’ dogs bark annoyingly; my female chickens crow like roosters at dawn. My guinea pigs eat the lawn down to its roots; my cat gets in noisy fights at midnight.

‘The impact of barking dogs on property value’ article on the Sacramento Appraisal blog recently got input from a range of real estate agents who didn’t have much positive to report about mixing dog with real estate.

“If the dogs barks incessantly while showing the home/yard,” realtor Brian McMartin said, “Clients become concerned about their privacy and it can be a big turn-off. If the dog appears aggressive, most clients will ask to leave […] Despite the size of the dog, clients become very nervous around dogs and it impacts their overall impression of the home. Additionally, if the home smells at all like any animal, this is a huge turn-off for prospective buyers and will affect the desirability of the home.” expanded on this, adding that pets work against the maxim of “depersonalising the space.” Depersonalising is a concept by which a house for sale should have its residents’ personal effects hidden so that prospective buyers don’t feel they are invading someone else’s house. If you’re leaving your dog bed or cat dish or fish tank on display, it is the equivalent of leaving the message ‘this house already belongs to somebody else.’

So that’s all the negative stuff. Let me counter that by reminding you life is short, and while a comfortable, rewarding home can be life-saving, pets save lives too. Here’s how:

- Heart attack survivors who have pets are likely to live longer.

- Barking can raise awareness if a vulnerable owner has suffered a fall and can’t get

- Relationships with pets help people through trauma and provide connectedness
when families break down.

- Dogs drag their owners out for exercise and lessen blood pressure.

- Children taking care of pets develop empathy to enable them to take care of adults

- New Zealand academics Monica Kyone and Kevin Stafford found teaching a pet
new tricks may help young children educationally

- Looking after an animal builds the self-esteem of a child and makes him or her feel
more competent.

Then again, in Whangarei in 2015 alone, there were 275 dog-related injuries, and almost 13,000 dog-related injuries across NZ that year. Some of those injuries come from bites, while many are just owners tripping over their dogs. I am not making this up. Animal-related injuries cost $20m a year, the ACC says. There are over 100 claims a year for injuries caused by rabbits alone, ACC adds. So get a pet if you’re on your own at home – just maybe not a deadly rabbit.

Michael Botur has published journalism in NZ Herald, Herald on Sunday, Sunday Star-Times and Mana and he writes a lot of fiction. He moved to Whangarei in 2015 and was ecstatic to be able to afford a house here.

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