B.C. animal lovers call for end to rental discrimination against pet owners
Nearly 5 pets are surrendered to the BC SPCA every day due to lack of housing
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Vancouver resident Gary Lee grew up with dogs and always knew he wanted to have one of his own when he grew up.
When he and his girlfriend moved into a friend’s condo where pets were allowed, they jumped at the chance to add a furry family member.
“All the other rental buildings we lived in didn’t allow pets. As soon as we moved into a pet-friendly building, our first priority was to get a dog," he said.
Lee and his girlfriend, a veterinary technician, got a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy and named him Monster.
But after two years, their friend wanted the condo back and the pair started the search for a new home.
It was a stressful and frustrating experience said Lee, an engineer who has lived in rental housing all his life.
“Having a pet really excludes the amount of rental units you can find,” he said.
“Searching through Craigslist and all the different rental websites, as soon as you put in ‘dogs okay,’ I found that 80 per cent of places are totally off the market for you at that point.”
The discrimination against pet owners was sometimes subtle but always there, said Lee.
“[The landlord] would say tell me a bit about yourself, and we’d say, we have a dog – and then we wouldn’t hear a response back.”
After more than a dozen applications, the family found a landlord with a Kitsilano apartment who allowed them to keep their 20-pound pooch. The monthly rent was higher than what the pair had budgeted for, but they could keep Monster. There was no question whether they would take it.
The experience informed Lee’s decision to support Pets OK BC’s campaign for pet-friendly housing during his independent run for city council during Vancouver’s byelection.
It’s an issue that Pets OK BC organizer Eliot Galan says B.C. lawmakers can’t ignore anymore.
“No-pets policies are happening at such an alarming rate that it is causing undue hardship to families all across the province,” he said.
About five pets are surrendered everyday in B.C. due to housing issues, according to the BC SPCA.
Between 2013 and 2015, staff saw a 127 per cent increase in housing-related surrenders, said Amy Morris, manager of public policy and outreach.
“What we see most often is people get into very traumatic crisis mode because they’re having to make an extremely difficult decision to separate a bond with a family member,” she said.
“Imagine what it would be like for a person to give up their kid if they can’t find housing – that bond people have with their children isn’t so different than the bond people have with their pets.”
The BC SPCA is supporting the call for legislative change to make more pet-friendly housing available in the province, said Morris.
She and Galan say landlords should have the right to not rent to a tenant who is disruptive or damages property, but that allowing them to ban all pets is not a fair solution.
“Landlords need a legitimate justification to say no to pets,” said Galan.
“That could be allergies, noise disturbances, or having an animal that is showing signs of aggression, for example.”
A spokesperson for the advocacy group Landlord BC has previously told Metro it does not support restricting landlords’ ability to say no to pets. The group says building more pet-friendly rental housing is a better solution.
When asked about the lack of pet-friendly rentals, B.C. Housing Minister, Selina Robinson, said the government is committed to building 114,000 affordable housing units in the next 10 years.
"Pet policies have to balance the needs of renters with the needs and preferences of landlords so as not to negatively impact the rental housing supply. Supply is truly at the heart of the issue and, in a province with extremely low vacancy rates, renters are faced with tough choices, and sometimes no choice at all," she said in a written statement.
Pets OK BC and animal lovers are set to rally in front of B.C. legislative assembly in Victoria on Sunday, Oct. 22 to present a 10,000-signature petition to the provincial government, calling on them to ban ‘no-pets’ policies in the Tenancy Act.
Ontario passed a similar law in 1990.
Pets OK BC rally
Oct. 22, 2017
12:30 – 2:30 p.m.