VERNON - If you’ve had to make the tough decision between finding housing and keeping your pet, you aren't alone.
A shortage of pet-friendly housing across the province is forcing many renters to part with their companion animals. The B.C. SPCA estimates roughly 20 per cent of all surrendered animals are given up due to housing-related reasons, and it can be even higher in some communities.
Meranda Dussault, an animal care specialist at the Vernon branch of the SPCA, estimates 70 to 80 per cent of animals surrendered to that shelter stem from a lack of pet-friendly housing in the city.
“It drives me batty to see all these people having to give up their animals because they’re not allowed to have them in their rental units,” Dussault says. “It’s the number one reason animals come into our shelter in Vernon.”
She’s noticed the strain becoming even worse over the past year, and says watching owners give up their pets is heartbreaking.
“I’ve had to direct a few owners to the backroom to gather themselves because they’re crying, they’re shaking because they’re so upset. It’s pretty sad for both animal and owner,” Dussault says.
Many landlords believe animals will cause damage to the unit, but that’s not representative of all pets, Dussault says. She insists many pet owners are very responsible, with well-trained and well-cared for animals. Generally, people with pets also tend to be longer-term renters, she says. According to a study in the U.S., animal owners in pet-friendly housing stay an average of 46 months compared to 18 months for tenants in housing prohibiting pets.
Those struggling to find a home for themselves, and their pet, might want to look at three guides developed by the SPCA, one each for renters, property owners and strata councils. The toolkits contain information about the benefits of pet-friendly housing as well as documents like rental unit pet policies, examples of interview questions landlords can ask, and a letter from the SPCA prospective renters can give to property owners.
“Really, I think the best things that can be done (as a landlord) are to meet the animal, secure a pet deposit, do monthly inspections on the unit and really screen who you’re allowing into the unit. One of the benefits I think for landlords when they advertise pet friendly units is they’re going to have such a drastic increase in people wanting to rent it,” Dussault says.
She suggests renters provide references and records for obedience classes if the pet has received training, because it will help demonstrate the animal is well behaved and not destructive.
With a little communication and education, she hopes options for pet-friendly housing will expand in Vernon and across B.C.
“Any type of animal is so helpful for people, they’re so beneficial and so therapeutic,” Dussault says. “If people are responsible pet owners, they should be able to keep their pets.”
It’s emotional watching people surrender their animals, she says, and it’s not easy on the pets themselves either.
“It’s really hard on them to change their complete lifestyle,” she says.
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