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Heartbreak over Angus, the pet-ban busting dog

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Angus, the pet-ban busting dog, has died.  Singer Jo Cooper, who challenged her owners’ corporation’s “no pets” by-laws all the way to the NSW Court of Appeal – and won – announced his death on her Facebook page this week.

One of Ms Cooper’s arguments for keeping Angus in defiance of the Horizon apartment block’s total ban on pets was that he was old and unwell and she and her partner wanted to spend as much as possible of the precious time she had left with him.

She challenged the Horizon’s no-pets by-law at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) on the grounds that it was “harsh, unconscionable or oppressive”, conditions that bar by-laws under NSW strata law.

The initial Tribunal agreed but a subsequent NCAT Appeals Board overturned the original verdict. 

However, MS Cooper launched a partially crowd-funded legal challenge and the NSW Court of Appeal – the state’s highest court – found in Angus’ favour, awarding all costs to her.

Meanwhile she’d enjoyed a huge amount of support from pet-lovers and apartment residents, something she acknowledged in her notice of Angus’ death.

“I know many of you loved our amazing little Boy Angus and I know he has left a huge impact in this world and a huge hole in our hearts,” the Facebook entry says.

“On Saturday afternoon, our little boy took a bad turn and we had to take him to the vet. In my heart I was hoping so much that it was just another scare, it wasn’t.

“Around 5pm on the 2 October Angus left us and it was one of the worst experiences of our lives. The hurt is excruciating.

“We love you so much Angus and miss you so very much.”

Her Facebook page and the local community’s Potts Pointers page have been bombarded with messages of sympathy and support.

Angus’s enduring legacy is that pet owners all over NSW – and possibly elsewhere in Australia – will no longer be forced to choose between giving up their companion animals and moving into an apartment.

Ms Cooper’s battle with the Horizon was also hugely influential in a change to NSW strata laws.

Under “Establishment and Effect of By-laws” Section 137B says, “It is taken to be reasonable to keep an animal on a lot unless the keeping of the animal unreasonably interferes with another occupant’s use and enjoyment of the occupant’s lot or the common property.”

The section goes on to say that strata committees refusing an animal in contravention of this section, or even just delaying a decision on an application for a pet, will both be seen as having agreed to a pet being brought into the strata scheme.

And while the Court of Appeal ruling is a legal precedent only for cases in NSW, due to the seniority of the court, it can be cited as a factor in decisions elsewhere in Australia.

Meanwhile Angus is to be immortalised in a book written by Ms Cooper called Paw & Order and described as “a heartfelt thank you to the people (and their pets) who stood for real and lasting change – and won”.

Published by Hardie Grant, its high-end photography is by Bonnie Hansen, with a foreword is by interior designer Greg Natale.

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