Numbers on the Rise for Animal Shelters as Pet-Friendly Rentals Dwindle

Just another reason why our rental market sucks.

July 26, 2018

By Laryssa Vachon / Photo: Yerlin Matu on Unsplash

If you walk outside on a warm sunny day, Vancouver can seem like the most pet-friendly place in the world. Happy dogs, equally delighted owners, Yaletown pet stores that sell doggie strollers and to-die-for costumes—it’s Instagram heaven.

But thousands of pets in the city have nowhere to live. We covered the lack of pet-friendly rental units in this city back in 2015, but this specific housing issue has resulted in increased intake at local animal shelters over the years. Three SPCA locations surround the Vancouver area alone to make room for these animals, and Amy Morris, the manager of public policy and outreach at BC SPCA, says the organization took in a total of 22,659 animals in 2017. “There would be fewer animals coming through shelters—approximately 1,700 annually—if there was more housing available for pets,” Morris says.

Moving is a hassle (as is finding a rental in a city with a less than one percent vacancy rate), so those who live in non-pet-friendly homes may be less likely to want to find a place where they could adopt a pet in the future. It adds to the growing population of animals in shelters, and crushes a Vancouverite’s dreams of one day owning an adorably large and loveable dog (or rabbit, or guinea pig, or sassy bird, et cetera) to show off at the beach.

“It was very challenging,” says pet-owner and professional dog-walker Tanya Helliwell about finding a place where her pets could live. “On our first move to Vancouver in 2004, we had one dog and one cat and it was next to impossible to find a place that allowed both. I’ve lived in Edmonton and Ottawa also and find Vancouver to be the most restrictive”

Current research across four popular home-searching sites (Kijiji, Rent Faster, Padmapper, and Craigslist) found that available pet-friendly apartments make up only about 17 per cent of current available rentals across the city—and those fall into the higher price range, charging an average of 10 per cent more per month compared to non-pet-friendly homes (on top of the price of security deposits).

“We had a hard time finding a place to rent that allowed dogs, especially more than one,” Helliwell says of her second move to Vancouver seven years ago. She and her partner had two dogs and one rabbit at the time. They ended up buying a home to avoid having to find new homes for their animals—an option not available to everyone.

For those renting still (and forever), the current BC Tenant Agreement allows landlords to make all pet-related decisions—including restrictions on size, kind and number of pets allowed. Advocates have long lobbied for modelling B.C’s rules along the lines of Ontario’s legislation. As of April 30 of this year, a new mandatory lease for most private residential leases in the province (excluding mobile home parks, social housing and care homes) includes a section where landlords cannot ban guests or pets. The tenant holds responsibility for damage to the rental caused by anyone or animal in the rental unit, but can no longer be denied the luxury of a pet-friendly home.

Until BC legislation changes to give us comparable privileges, we’ll endure the epic search for the perfect pet-friendly home rental…with our unconditionally loving animals to keep our hearts warm during those long, rainy months.

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