OWNING a pet could help those looking for love, a new survey has found.

A fifth of people in the South West say they would rather date someone with a pet, according to research carried out by pet insurer Animal Friends.

Almost a third of those polled said they would much rather smooch a pooch-owner, while a quarter said they would more likely be feline the love with a cat keeper.

And 12 per cent said they would ditch a lover if they would not let a pet into their lives.

However smaller animals such as rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs were more likely to be a turn off.

The survey also found that reptiles and creepy crawlies are the least likely pets to make lovers linger longer, as 55 per cent said they would not date someone with a tarantula and more than half would snub a snake.

The average British dog owner meets three new people a week while out for a walk and eight per cent of people have started dating as a result of a chance meeting of pets.

The survey revealed that one in ten canny canine-owning men have used their dog as a wingman to snag potential partners, while a third of pet owners say that their cuddly companion has strengthened their current relationship.

A quarter of women said they would be more likely to date someone with a pet, versus 15 per cent of men.

Despite all that, 10 per cent of respondents said they would be less likely to date someone who owned a pet, with the most common reason being not wanting to deal with their smell or the mess.

Westley Pearson, managing director of Animal Friends, said: “It seems like pets are part of the package when it comes to some relationships, with people willing to throw in the towel on a future fiancé just because they don’t want to own a pet.

“But even when relationships do go sour, know that your pet’s love is unconditional.”

Of those already in a relationship, the survey found that couples often linked up over the shared love of animals and 88 per cent of people who identified as ‘a dog person’ were in a relationship with another dog lover. Over two thirds of cat lovers are suitably paired also.