It has long been known that pet shops are the biggest source of income for many small businesses, but they are also increasingly the source of controversy, especially in rural areas.
A study published by the University of New South Wales shows that people living in remote parts of Australia often have less contact with pet shops than their urban counterparts.
The findings also suggest that more than one-third of Australian adults live in rural communities.
The study, which examined the daily turnover of pet shops across the state of Victoria, found that in rural Australia, people living within 100 kilometres of a pet shop had less than half the daily experience as those living more than 200 kilometres away.
The report was published on Monday in the journal PLOS ONE.
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The authors also found that more people are likely to visit a pet store in rural and remote areas than those in urban areas.
“People who are in remote areas tend to have a different perception of pet shopping, and in rural regions, a lot of people are going to the shop,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Andrew McArthur.
“So it’s a bit like a boutique,” he said.
“There’s not that much interaction.”
One reason for the difference in experiences is that rural and regional economies are different.
For example, rural economies tend to be more small-scale, based on the availability of land and resources.
That can mean that a small business might not be as able to compete in a larger city.
However, a study by the Australian Council for Small Business Australia in February found that businesses in rural Queensland and NSW had better access to capital than those living in urban centres.
In the study, the researchers looked at how much people in rural states and cities spent on pet supplies, compared with those living further afield.
The researchers found that those living within 200 kilometres of rural areas spent an average of about $822 more per year on pet food than those who lived 100 kilometres away from the nearest business.
The authors say they’re hopeful that this study can be used to inform local governments’ pet strategy and development, and help improve the accessibility of pets in the future.
“It’s important to remember that small businesses are important to communities and we should be supporting their growth,” Dr McArthur said.