Census 2021: The household members not being counted

Tonight households across the nation will be filling out their census forms and providing the critical data used to make important decisions about everything from health, aged care, transport and education.

You’ll need to include details of everyone in your household this evening, including visitors, however, there will be one notable exception. Your family pet.

With almost two-thirds of Australian households owning a pet they consider part of the family, there’s a growing push to have our four-legged companions acknowledged and counted as part of the census.

Advocates argue that with 5.1 million dogs and 3.8 million cats sharing our homes, the information gathered about them could be used when it comes to guiding policy relating to companion animals and making our communities more pet friendly.

Woman and baby play with a dog as man watches on. Source: Getty Images
Some dog owners say their pet is more important to them than their spouse. Source: Getty Images

Animal lovers believe the inclusion of pets in the census would recognise the important role they play in our lives and their valuable contribution to Australian society.

For some, pets more important than a spouse

According to research carried out by PetCulture, an online pet shop campaigning to promote the bond between pets and their owners, 89 per cent of "pet parents" believe pets should be getting more consideration in adult society.

Fifty-five per cent report their relationship with their pet is just as important as their relationship with friends and family, even their spouse.

According to PetCulture CEO, Simon Smith: “these insights recognise the shifting attitude in how we see our pets".

"We’re moving away from the old master/pet relationship and seeing our pet as an integral member of the family,” Mr Smith said.

Veterinarian and international expert on the human-animal bond, Dr Michael Archinal, also believes our pets deserve greater recognition.

"With more pets than people in Australia, 29 million and counting, people are wanting to see a society where their pet is included in their day-to-day life," Dr Archinal said.

ABS welcomes submissions for new Census topics

Every census, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the government agency responsible for managing this major data-gathering operation, reviews its questions to ensure the information collected is both relevant for a changing Australia and beneficial.

According to a spokesperson for the ABS: “a significant amount of work goes into adding a new question to the census and they go through a rigorous process seeking public submissions and considering them.”

A small dog in a park. Source: Getty Images
Our pets have become an integral part of our families. Source: Getty Images

This process is a transparent and consultative one, according to the ABS.

Currently, the topic of companion animals is not on the bureau’s agenda but with pet ownership increasing in Australia and along with it, a demand for more pet-friendly policies, the topic will inevitably become more relevant.

This may mean for the next Census, in 2026, pets all over Australia may finally have the chance to stand up and be counted.

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