When 27-year-old Alex Shaughnessy and his canine companion Tiger were forced to move out of their first rental in Australia six years ago, they faced the "ruff" pet-restrictive policies that existed in the ACT at the time, and feared they might not find a new home.
Mr Shaughnessy couldn't bear the thought of parting with Tiger, who he credits with playing an astronomically beneficial role in his life.
Luckily for the pair, a landlord who was happy for Tiger to live at the property reached out to Mr Shaughnessy, and they have happily shared their home with other tenants for the past six years.
"I am quite lucky, really - I am in a private rental and have never had to deal with a real estate agency," Mr Shaughnessy said.
"I have been in this rental for six years and have a great relationship with my landlord. I've come from overseas, so to me my dog has been my anchor here. He's been amazing for mentally securing me here, and for socialising and getting out and exercising."
Unfortunately for many pet owners across Australia, pet-restrictive rental policies can mean relinquishing their pet or risking homelessness, a reality that can have severe ill effects on both renters' and pets' wellbeing.
Following legislative changes in 2019, the ACT, alongside Victoria, is currently leading the nation in terms of pet-permissive policy for renters. But the territory still has room to improve, according to an Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report.
The report, Housing and housing assistance pathways with companion animals: risks, costs, benefits and opportunities, says a strategic and systematic approach to pet-permissive rental policy is critically important for both the health and wellbeing of the more than 60 per cent of Australians with pets, but also for the reduction of pet-relinquishment rates.
"What we are also seeing in some parts is innovation in crisis care facilities, aged care and homelessness service facilities that indicate when people can live with their animals," said the report's lead author, Professor Wendy Stone.
"It can enable their health and wellbeing to be the best it can be. It can also enable the housing of those who have been in long-term homelessness or family violence situations."
The report's publication came shortly after the release of the updated ACT Renters Book, a resource informing Canberra renters of their rights and responsibilities.
A third of Australians rent within the private sector, and a large portion of those will remain in a private rental for most, if not all, of their adult lives. Of these, many will rent more than one property.
Currently in the ACT, landlords and real estate agents are not allowed to include terms in a tenancy agreement regarding the prohibition of pets.
The loophole that exists for landlords is that they can request that a potential renter ask for consent to keep a pet, and can simply choose a pet-free renter, although the move could be considered discrimination.
Mr Shaughnessy is grateful he and Tiger managed to avoid that fate.
"My dog is the original reason I met my girlfriend, so he really has had some incredible, life-changing benefits," he said.