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South Africans are a nation of pet lovers. That’s official.

For example, a survey done in 2017 suggests that there are 9.2 million dogs living in South African households, making the country the 9th ranked nation in the world by the size of the dog pet population. (Insight Survey 2017)

South Africa’s pets are increasingly being seen as part of the family. But the keeping of pets in apartment blocks has been controversial, driven often by misconceptions on the part of bodies corporate. There are unfortunate and unintended consequences to this. For example, it often has the unfortunate effect of denying the keeping of a precious pet by elderly persons who have had to relocate to something smaller following the death of a loved one.

However, due to migration to the cities worldwide and increase in apartment complex living, there has been a noticeable trend towards allowing apartment holders to keep pets in countries including Australia and the United States. Just in 2016, the state of New South Wales, Australia enacted more favourable strata regulations that make it easier for bodies corporate to allow pet ownership, while encouraging building designs to be more pet-friendly. Such design options include open windows, ledges, soundproofing and also outdoor areas such as balconies and public spaces.

According to Emma Power, a senior researcher in Geography and Urban Studies at the Western Sydney University, the keeping of pets in apartment communities is a good thing. It benefits the whole community, supporting the overall health of their owners, protecting against loneliness and has a ripple effect in creating a sense of community.

In the State of California, anything goes, especially in Los Angeles where up to 50% of residents in apartments have pets and there is even a North-Hollywood landlord who insists that all tenants come with a pet. In South Africa, typical municipal regulations permit the keeping of two dogs or two cats older than six months in an apartment, unless an application has been made for more and approved.

Locally, the availability of dog or cat-friendly apartment accommodation is much sought-after and forward-looking developers are meeting the need.

We spoke to Craig Gilfillian, a real estate agent living in a recently completed apartment complex in Newlands, called the Premier. Craig and his partner live with a French Bulldog, Bentley, in a glam two-bed apartment on the top floor with stunning views of Table Mountain. Whilst he stresses that the ultimate decision to permit residents to keep pets rests with the body corporate and trustees of the building, he also mentions the importance of the pet-friendly nature of the building. In his instance, a large wraparound balcony, shared areas and easy access to a public green trail along the banks of the Liesbeek river right up to the famous Newlands brewery.

Words and Photo by Gareth Griffiths