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Can my pet live with me in aged care?

Animals are one of the most important companions in our lives, but the move to aged care poses an important question – what happens to our pets when we no longer live at home?

Last updated: February 13th 2023
Animals are one of the most important companions in our lives, but the move to aged care poses an important question – what happens to our pets when we no longer live at home?

Animals are one of the most important companions in our lives, but the move to aged care poses an important question – what happens to our pets when we no longer live at home?

Key points

  • If you want to bring your pet into an aged care home that allows animals, it is still your responsibility to look after them
  • Your pet will have to be assessed by a vet to determine if it can safely live in an aged care setting
  • Speak to your friends and family about who could look after your pet if you are no longer able to care for them

Aged care homes are often not designed for pets, just 18% of homes cater to residents who want to keep their cat, dog or small animal.

But if you have to make the move into aged care and cannot take them with you, you may be forced to give your pet to a family member or friend, or even put them up for adoption.

That’s a scenario any pet owner wants to avoid. So if you are looking for pet-friendly aged care providers, keep reading to find out the steps you need to take for you and your companion.

How can I bring my pet into aged care?

The ability to bring your pet with you when moving into aged care will depend on the provider allowing pets and your pet meeting their eligibility criteria.

Contact your local aged care homes to find out if they do allow pets and what their rules are, such as whether they allow pets to stay permanently or only to visit. They will have a specific policy and there will be guidelines to follow.

You can use the Aged Care Guide search tool to find local providers that are pet friendly by using the filter option ‘facility has pets’. 

In most circumstances, you will solely be responsible for caring for your pet. You may receive help from family members or friends, but the staff are generally there to focus on your needs. Therefore, ask yourself the following questions to see if you would be in a position to care for your pet while in aged care:

  • Who is responsible for caring for the pet each day, including feeding, exercise, grooming and medication  
  • What would happen if you are sick or can no longer care for them?
  • Who will clean up, including poo and cat litter?
  • How will your pet cope in a new environment? 
  • Will your pet bark or make sounds that impact other residents at night?
  • Do they feel stressed or anxious around strangers?
  • Are there any behavioural issues to be concerned about?

If you are worried about any of the above, speak to the aged care provider first as there may be support options available even if you require some assistance from your family.

Additionally, aged care providers may also have different rules for assistance dogs and companion animals that provide you with support if you are blind, deaf, or require assistance in any other approved way.

You will have to still request permission from the provider to bring your companion animal or assistance dog.

There are some care homes that will help you look after your pet and some even write a care plan to ensure you both are well looked after.

Seeking approval for your pet

As there is no widespread policy on pets in aged care, it will depend on what policy each aged care provider has in place.

Some may allow small, low-maintenance animals such as birds, fish, hamsters or turtles, while others may also include cats and dogs. The size and breed could also impact what pets are allowed, although that is often permitted on a case-by-case basis.

Each aged care home that accepts pets will have a specific assessment form that you must take to an approved veterinarian to fill out. Without a signed-off assessment by the vet, your pet will not be accepted.

As part of the assessment, all dogs and cats will have to be microchipped and registered with the council (if local regulations apply). 

As there are likely other animals on-site, they will also need to be up to date on vaccinations, flea, tick and worming treatments. Someone must be available to take them to regular vet appointments as well to ensure they receive annual vaccinations.

Facilities that accept pets will also ask you about their behaviours. Pets that are well-behaved, calm, friendly, follow commands and are toilet-trained will be approved over aggressive and poorly trained animals.

Leash training and anxiety around strangers – or when separated from yourself – will also be taken into account.

You should also consider whether your pet is going to enjoy living in a facility where outdoor access may be more limited, and it may be confined to a smaller room than normally is used to. 

Planning for your pet’s future

Since aged care staff cannot look after your pet on your behalf, you will need to have a plan in place if you are no longer able to care for them.

In some instances, your family may be able to help by providing regular support, such as taking the dog for a walk or to the vet. But if family members or friends have to provide daily care such as feeding and grooming, it could be time for them to permanently look after the pet at home.

This means you also have more time to focus on your own needs and personal care without the additional challenges of cleaning up or entertaining an animal that still requires a lot of attention.

The good news is that your family can still bring in the pet for visits so you won’t be separated. 

It is essential that you and your family or friends have a plan in place prior to moving into aged care, however. They need to be aware of their responsibilities and what would happen if there is a sudden change in circumstances, such as a fall or illness. 

Otherwise, if no one can look after your pet, you may be forced to put them up for adoption. 

Planning for yourself and your pet means you can both live a fulfilling life as you get older without having to worry about any major changes in care or living arrangements.

If you are after more information or advice on pet-friendly aged care, the Companion Animal Network (Australia CAN) has more resources.

Do you know anyone who has moved into pet-friendly aged care? Tell us more in the comments below.

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