New Books

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Domestic Animals, Humans and Leisure

Book cover: Domestic Animals, Humans, and LeisureHalf of you reading this story right now will have a dog, cat, horse or some other animal who shares your life and provides you with companionship, love and purpose.

Presumably you care for that animal and ensure it is healthy, happy and safe. But chances are you also believe you are the ‘master’ and your domesticated pet is subservient, albeit much loved.

That premise is challenged with the release of a new book edited by UniSA Health Sciences lecturer Dr Janette Young and University of Otago’s Professor Neil Carr.

Domestic Animals, Humans, and Leisure explores the shifting tide in human-animal relationships and whether it’s time we addressed the power imbalance between the two.

More specifically, it asks whether domestic animals have a right to leisure that is separate from ours.

“By and large, humans make all the decisions about where and how their pets live,” Dr Young says. “We have made them highly dependent on us without much regard for their own needs and rights and perhaps it’s time we considered addressing that imbalance.”

The book tackles several themes, including the use of animals as visitor attractions (i.e. farm stays), breeding, leisure activities including dog shows, horse riding establishments, pet-friendly holiday locations, and the darker side of human ‘sport’ – animal fighting.

It questions whether these human-designed leisure pursuits are in the best interests of animals or whether their benefits are solely for humans.

Different chapters draw experiences from across the world, including Canada, the US, Poland and Israel, as well as Australia. Authors discuss the legitimacy of caging small domesticated animals, the conflict between off-leash domesticated pets and wildlife, and whether it’s time to challenge assumptions about how pets feel and perceive things.

“Walking the dog is presumed leisure for both animals and humans,” the authors say. “But is that the case for all dogs? Does a horse feel just as fulfilled as we do by cantering across the countryside in a beautiful setting? Perhaps they do, but in some cases are we blind to animals’ desires?”

The authors point to the need for a more in-depth understanding of different breeds of animals, rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’.

“This is already quite sophisticated regarding dogs,” the book points out. “For example, greyhounds are happy to snooze on a couch all day long; border collies require long, outdoor runs; while poodles really do like to parade.”

The book calls for more research and input from qualified animal practitioners to advise on what leisure activities might suit different species and breeds, rather than humans taking the lead.

“This includes the possibility that some animals – especially those who have been selectively bred to work – may not actually like being idle but have a biological need for work.”

The shift in human-animal relationships, from animal to pet, to companion and family member, is reflected in society in so many ways. Just witness the rise of pet-themed businesses, doggy day care centres and an increasing number of pet-friendly holiday options.

Given their closer integration in our lives, the time is ripe for a deeper discussion about pets’ rights, welfare and wellbeing, the book argues.

Domestic Animals, Humans, and Leisure is published by Routledge and is available online.

Planning Metropolitan Australia

Bokk cover: Planning Metropolitan AustraliaMetropolitan planning has a surprisingly long pedigree in Australia. Practices have evolved steadily in response to shifting large-scale urban problems. However, capital cities today present a suite of complex issues that challenge planning systems and demand better alignment between problem and response.

It’s a topic explored in Planning Metropolitan Australia, edited by UniSA Emeritus Professor Stephen Hamnett, and Robert Freestone. Presenting essays from Australia’s leading urbanists, the book examines the spatial strategies used by governments to manage metropolitan development in the 21st century.

“The most distinctive feature of Australia’s contemporary settlement pattern is that the majority of Australians live in a small number of large metro areas within capital cities,” Prof Hamnett says.

“But this presents significant challenges – as urban planning naturally occurs against a dynamic background of economic, spatial and population change, there’s often a mismatch between the city’s planning goals and their sprawling realities.”

He says that cities are generally failing to deliver affordable housing and efficient public transport systems, and that this is largely due to, amongst other things, the preoccupation of Australians with housing as an investment vehicle and also inadequate spending on transport infrastructure.

Planning Metropolitan Australia reflects on the raft of planning challenges presented at the metropolitan scale, looks at what the future of Australian cities might be, and speculates about the prospects of more effective metropolitan planning arrangements.

It identifies a broad planning consensus around the notion of making Australian cities more contained, compact and resilient. It also observes a continuing gulf between the simplified aims of metropolitan strategies and the growing understanding of the complex functioning of the varied communities in which most people live.

Building on the editors' previous collection The Australian Metropolis: A Planning History (2000), this new book examines the recent history of metropolitan planning in Australia since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Published by Routledge, the book is available online.