Skip to Content

PIAS Introduction

The “Living Well Together” handbook has been designed to assist local authorities and other interested parties tap into an often under-utilised avenue for building sense of community and social capital – the power of pets.

This handbook has grown from pioneering Australian research that has revealed how pets and their owners make measurable social contributions to our communities.

While pets in the community can sometimes cause a degree of nuisance, studies demonstrate that the closer the bond between animal and owner, the more responsible the owner is likely to be, with pet nuisances less likely to arise.

The benefits of building happy, healthy and active communities are well recognised; this handbook demonstrates how companion animals can play a part in plugging people back into their community, be it through getting people out volunteering, exercising or interacting socially with others.

There are a multitude of things that can contribute positively to social capital – involvement in sports and schools are common examples. But not everyone plays sport and not everyone has children. Yet two thirds of households own pets and more than half of all households own a dog and/or a cat.

Dr Lisa Wood, a research fellow with the Centre for the Built Environment and Health

(School of Population Health) at the University of Western Australia has been involved in research looking at the connection between pets and social capital. The Petcare

Information & Advisory Service has worked side by side with Dr Wood to create this handbook which provides examples and case studies of ways in which pets can play a part in creating healthy neighbourhoods and strengthening sense of community.

Pets are right under our noses and available to help us, all that is required is a little concerted thought in discovering the best ways to utilise them and reap benefits for the whole community.

The contents of the handbook are actual case studies drawn from around Australia, ranging across a broad range of topics from community building to utilising volunteers.

All are examples of ways in which pets are effectively enhancing social capital. Some are simple and require little organisation or funding, others are more complex. Some of the case studies may appeal, others may not. The ideas in these case studies can be readily adapted to different communities and circumstances.

You may find that these pet related case studies fit into a suite of other community development strategies or that just one will address a particular problem that your council has been wrestling with for a while.

You can pick and choose from the ones that are most appropriate to the needs of your residents and to the environmental, budgetary and social requirements of your council.

Benefits of each example are clearly outlined. Tips are provided to demonstrate how such concepts might be replicated. Web links and an appendix are included to make further investigation easy.

Pets don’t just make people who own them feel good, they can create a positive ripple effect that extends into the broader community.

Petcare Information & Advisory Service, March 2009

go to SECTION ONE – Building Community

return to Living Well Together contents