Pet owners save the public healthcare system an estimated $2 billion annually, according to new data released yesterday.
The findings have prompted a call for state and federal governments to offer tax credits for pet ownership in a bid to encourage further benefits.
Celebrity vet Dr Chris Brown, star of the popular Bondi Vet TV series, is one of the leading protagonists encouraging policymakers to consider tax rebates or offsets that encourage pet ownership to stimulate further healthcare savings.
The Healthcare Economics of Pets report found that on average, every pet owner saves the health system $700 per year. Those saving figures are based on previous studies by academics at the University of Melbourne that found pet owners visit the doctor 11 per cent less than non-pet owners on average.
Pets encourage better physical health through walk and play, and promote mental health by providing companionship and facilitating community connections.
“This research is a wakeup call for policy makers to acknowledge the broader benefits of pet ownership, which even extends to the public purse,” Dr Brown said.
“If our governments can recognise pet owners for making smart choices for their health through incentives like a tax rebate or offset, the return on investment could be huge.”
Economic projections in the report suggest that if the pet population in Australia increased by 10 per cent a year, the public health system could save over $200 million annually.
“This report shows that keeping Australia pet friendly is an issue of national importance. I hope the government can see the value in spending a little, to save a lot,” said Dr Brown.
John Bishop, co-founder and joint CEO of national animal welfare charity PetRescue, also voiced his support for the pet ownership tax offset proposal.
“We really need policies like this to encourage more Australians to discover the benefits, and the joy, of pet adoption,” Mr Bishop said.
“The fact that pet ownership also has such a huge positive impact on our economy, it makes me wonder why this hasn’t been implemented sooner. It’s a win-win for both humans and the many thousands of pets looking for a new home.”
The report was commissioned by Mars Petcare as part of the Keep Australia Pet Friendly campaign.
What do you think? Should pet ownership be subsidised? Should the offer only be available to rescue pets to help promote further cost savings?