Pets Are Wonderful Allies To LGBT People: New Study

Out novelist Reece Carter grew up on a farm, where he says there were “more pets than family”. Carter, who writes children’s novels, says he did not realise how much he missed having a dog at home until a few years ago.

“There was a dog-shaped hole in my heart, so I decided to take the leap and get one of my own,” Carter tells Star Observerabout how he welcomed Hagrid into his home and life.

New research commissioned by Mad Paws, Australia’s largest online pet care marketplace, revealed that around 73 per cent of LGBTQI respondents in Australia were pet owners (compared to 65 per cent of non-LGBTQI pet owners) and more than half (53 per cent) said having a pet made them feel more connected to the community.

Pets Are Part Of Family

Out gay actor Tim Draxl (right) and his partner Adrian Barritt. Image: Mad Paws

Three in 10 or 29 per cent of LGBTQI pet owners said they felt less lonely and “regularly” relied on their pets for emotional support.

Pets not only provide comfort but also helped LGBTQI people (37 per cent said they felt unaccepted in their neighbourhoods) to connect with other people.

Just under half of LGBTQI respondents (49 per cent) said they had made a friend because of their pet, while around 18 per cent or two in 10 had scored romantic dates.

For out gay actor Tim Draxl and his partner Adrian Barritt, their dog Boss is like their child. “For a lot of queer people, who don’t go down the path of having children, their pets become part of their family,” says Draxl.

“(Having a pet) is very community building. We find that when we take Boss down to Rushcutters Bay, it’s a great way to meet new people… It’s a great way to make friends outside of the community as well.”

According to Mad Paws co-founder Alexis Soulopoulos, while the impact of pets was always known, for the first time research has shown how our four-legged friends help us lead more fulfilling lives.

“Issues with feeling safe, even during the day (18% v 12%), are more pronounced for LGBTQ+  folk, so it’s a true comfort that the research confirmed that pets can help counteract these,” Soulopoulos said in a statement.

“In fact for non-pet owners, LGBTQ+ people were far more likely to consider owning a pet to feel safer in their community compared with their heterosexual counterparts (38% vs 24%),” added Soulopoulos.

Hagrid Is a Great Listener

Reece Carter With Hagrid. Image: Mad Paws.

Carter, who lives with severe depression and anxiety, says having Hagrid around has made a difference in his life.

“Dogs live very much ‘in the now’, which is the complete opposite to my experience with anxiety – reliving past mistakes, worrying about the future and stressing about things outside of my control – so having a dog around who gets so much joy from the little things, like going for a swim or making a new friend at the park, really does act like a reminder to be more grateful and present. ‘Be more Hagrid’ is my motto. Plus, he’s a pretty great listener when things go wrong, and always offers a cuddle,” Carter said in an email interview.

Hagrid also inspired the character of Simon the huntsman spider in his children’s novel A Girl Called Corpse. “When it came time to write a sidekick that was loyal and brave, I had all the inspiration I needed in the shape of my big, shaggy, loveable dog. Simon the spider is basically a shrunken version of Hagrid – only with eight legs and too many eyes!” reveals Carter.

Earlier this month, Mad Paws organised the Walk With Pride event at Rushcutters Bay in Sydney to coincide with WorldPride celebrations. Mad Paws encouraged pet owners to wear something fabulous all through March to celebrate Pride.

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