Summerset says its relaxed animal policies reflect fact apartments are people's homes.

Joan Proud lives happily in an Orewa retirement village with her little Pomeranian, Chloe, but one thing about village life saddens her: she won't be allowed to replace her 5-year-old dog if it dies.

"I brought her into the village when I moved here from Stanmore Bay three years ago. I'm not allowed to replace her if she dies. It's sad. I hope I have her a long time, she's marvellous company for me," says the keen badminton player and walker who takes her pet out twice daily.

Joan is not alone.

If you live in a retirement village, you might not even be able to have a pet and if you do bring one with you and it dies, the rules might ban you from getting a replacement.

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That is the unpalatable fate for many older people whose pets are often key to a happy home and enjoying the last years of their lives, reducing the owner's stress, depression and social isolation.

Julian Cook, head of New Zealand's third largest village owner/operator Summerset Group, says some New Zealand retirement villages actively discourage pets.

Summerset is taking a far more humane approach, allowing people not only to bring pets with them when they move in, but also replace them should they die, he says.

"A lot of places don't allow you to have a pet," Cook explains.

"Some places say once moggy dies, you're not allowed another one. We've always taken the view that if you want to have a pet, you can.

Julian Cook, head of New Zealand's third largest village owner/operator Summerset Group, says some New Zealand retirement villages actively discourage pets. Photo / Ian Robertson
Julian Cook, head of New Zealand's third largest village owner/operator Summerset Group, says some New Zealand retirement villages actively discourage pets. Photo / Ian Robertson

"The thing with pets is people become very, very close to them. You do hear stories of people moving to villages and having to put old moggy down. If moggy dies in our village, you're allowed to get another one," he says.

Summerset does not have a list of approved and unapproved dogs, Cook says.

"Horses are obviously not allowed. A lot of people have fish or birds. They're allowed too. It's case by case. You're welcome to have a pet but you need to be mindful of others in the village," he says.

"If they want to make alterations, they need to come and see us but they can put an extension on such as a conservatory.

"For guests, it's your home and you would expect to invite who you want into it and have them to stay. Again, you're living in a community and need to be mindful so we do ask people to come and let us know, particularly if they're [staying for an] extended period of time like many months. We need to know."

"If you want to paint the wall pink, that's okay but we'll ask you to paint it back to the original colour when they leave."

A Ryman Healthcare spokesman says pets are welcome but need approval.

"The pet has to meet the sales adviser and cannot be a threat to any other residents. The pet is then written into the contract," he says.

Rob Wilson, president of the Retirement Village Residents Association, says a Tauranga couple wanted to bring a pair of whippets into their village.

"How fair is that on the animals, having a pair of whippets in an apartment? The operators said they could but the residents were against it."

The thing with pets is people become very, very close to them.

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Troy Churton, Commission for Financial Capability retirement villages national manager, says he understands pet policies.

"Most operators will reserve a right to speak to a resident wanting to bring a replacement pet into a village just as most ... like to do when the resident first comes into the village. I presume some logic for this relates to the ability of the resident to care [for] and control the pet as well as trying to preserve [residents'] right to quiet enjoyment," Churton says.

Selwyn Foundation rules stipulate a prior approval policy for its villages

"You must seek the village manager's approval in writing first, and approval is most likely to be granted if you live in a villa or a ground-floor apartment," Selwyn says.

"We will also want to agree what will happen if your neighbours subsequently complain about your pet."

Retirement Assets Limited, which runs Auckland's Ranfurly Village, also has a clear policy on pets. "It is possible provided you obtain written consent first and we prefer that pet owners occupy ground-floor apartments," Ranfurly states.

"We will also require ... an agreement relating to the care and behaviour of your pet and arrangements if you become unable to care for it."

Pet Power

• Auckland's Selwyn Village has a colony of 13 robotic fur seals as "pets" for residents.

• The robot seals have big soulful eyes, white fur and interact with people.

• Sensors pick up touch, sound, temperature and light.

• In Britain, the Henpower projects bring hens to the elderly in care homes.

• That helps tackle social isolation, reduces depression, improves wellbeing.