Mel Jones, of East Lismore, and her son Zane, 3, with their other family member, Otis the dog.
Mel Jones, of East Lismore, and her son Zane, 3, with their other family member, Otis the dog. David Nielsen

Dogs a part of the family

MEL JONES has four children – two boys, a girl and Otis the dog, who she believes is a cross between a Staffie and a Ridgeback.

“He is part of the family,” Ms Jones said yesterday.

“He’s another child. The other kids love him.”

Ms Jones found Otis, who had been abused, wandering the streets of East Lismore a year ago and, after failing to find his owner, she took the pooch home.

“It took him a long time to come out of his shell, but he’s fantastic now,” Ms Jones said.

Yet, it comes at a financial cost. Ms Jones estimates she spends about $50 a week on food and various other sundries.

“It depends what food you buy. I get him the really good science diet from the vet, so I don’t have to add pasta and vegetables. It’s quite expensive, but it evens out in the long run,” Ms Jones said, admitting she can’t resist getting Otis the ‘occasional” treat.

She is in good company. According to the Family Pooch Index developed by BankWest, NSW dog owning families spend an average $2600 a year on their canines.

That equates to about $27,000 over the pet’s life-time, and does not include the initial cost of buying the dog.

“It’s like children – if you can’t afford one you shouldn’t get one,” Ms Jones said.

According to the BankWest index, pet food and other gourmet doggy treats gobble up the bulk of the annual cost – $1200.

This is followed by veterinary costs of $450 a year and additional dog care, such as grooming and dog dietician and training costs totalling $405.

Interestingly, Generation Y spends the most on their pet dogs, however, 10pc admit they get their parents to pay.

The research also revealed what many have suspected for a long time – that half of the country’s dog owners consider their pet to be equally important as their kids, with an overwhelming 96 per cent of respondents considering their pet as part of the family.

Little surprise then that the State Government recently changed the rules to allow dogs into the outside areas of cafes if the proprietor permits.

Announcing the change, NSW Local Government Minister Barbara Perry said the new laws reflected the growth in alfresco cafe culture and the desire of pet owners to include their pooches when socialising.



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