VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Housing prices might be falling in Metro Vancouver, but it’s not getting any easier for people with pets to find a place to live.
From putting your cat in a kennel before an inspection, to smuggling your dog in a duffel bag multiple times a day — some pet owners are going to great lengths to hide their pets from their landlords because they can’t find pet-friendly places to live.
Andrew is subletting a room in a house off Commercial Drive. He moved in with his dog about a month ago, but it looks like he won’t be there much longer.
“I have yet to sit down with my roommate to see if anything can be worked out about this, but I think the writing is on the wall,” he says. “They’re worried about getting kicked out of this place because they’ve allowed a roommate with a dog. There’s a very real fear of getting kicked out.”
Even as there's an indication rents are starting to fall in Vancouver, the housing situation isn't necessarily getting better for pet-owners.
— Lauren Boothby (@laurby) May 4, 2019
He says he knew he took a risk moving in, but he couldn’t find anywhere else to stay.
“I have no idea where I’ll be living next month. I’ll probably have to get some depressing little one bedroom apartment,” he says.
Andrew didn’t expect to be in this situation. He’s lived in an apartment that allows pets for about seven years with his partner, but when they broke up and he had to move out, he was stuck finding a place to live.
“It is certainly daunting trying to find a place that allows pets,” he says. “If you go to Craigslist, and you click the dogs okay filter — boom! — that whittles it down to next to nothing.”
He says as renters feel the housing crunch, some young couples might be putting off having kids, and might opt to get a dog or cat instead.
“I hate the term ‘fur babies,’ but they’re having pets instead. And if we’re not allowed to have them, I think that’s awful,” he says.
Andrew isn’t the only one with a story like this.
Another woman — who requested anonymity for fear of retribution — says she hid her cat from her landlord at her last apartment because she couldn’t find a pet-friendly rental she could afford.
She kept her cat at home, but packed her up and brought her to a kennel when she knew her landlord was coming by.
“I was desperate to leave a dangerous housing situation I was in before where my neighbor was potentially dangerous,” she wrote in a Facebook message.
She says having a cat was great for her mental health, but hiding her from her landlord wasn’t.
“The building always had issues so I was always having to leave work and rush home and take her to a boarding place for the day in case the property managers entered my suite without me there or permission,” she says. “That happened about 12 times that I lived in that suite! It was so stressful. I was always worried about being caught or being evicted and I was always panicked.”
Advocate: discriminating against pet-owners needs to stop
Eliot Galán is with Pets OK BC, a group that advocates for pet owners. He says while it’s generally easier to hide a cat than a dog, he hears stories of people hiding both.
“I’ve even heard about someone everyday, multiple times a day, has to smuggle his little dog in a duffel bag down the elevator and back up every day because the strata has no-pets rules,” he says. “People do what they have to do because there’s a proverbial war on pets in British Columbia.”
Galán says animals seem to be forgotten as victims of the housing crisis as well. With around 40 per cent of Canadian households owning at least one cat or dog — and a high proportion of people in Vancouver renting — he says he thinks renters shouldn’t be prevented from living with their animals.
“Why should renters be treated as second-class citizens in that regard? Currently in British Columbia, property owners have full right to deny, prohibit, manage a tenant’s pets, and that just seems to be micromanaging in my point of view.
He says he understands some landlords have had issues with pets in the past, but that shouldn’t stop them from renting to other pet owners. He says problem pets could still be dealt with through the residential tenancy branch even without a no-pets clause.
“I really believe that tenants should have the same rights to enjoy their home as everyone else, and that includes having a cat or dog in your life,” he says. “When it comes to pets, we have so many blanket prohibitions that we feel that it’s just time to eliminate the ability for landlords to even do that in first place.”
Lack of housing, renovictions increasing animal surrenders
Maria Soroski with Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue says last year they saw an increase of people wanting to surrender their cats, and even more this year.
She says they get several calls a week with owners wanting to surrender their cats.
“The number one reason is because they cannot find housing that will take pets,” she says. “Either they are moving and can’t find housing that will accept a cat or pet, or they’ve been renovicted and they can’t find housing.
But the group doesn’t take surrenders, and instead focuses on rescuing orphaned and abandoned cats and kittens.
“I get calls about a cat that’s been left behind when people have to move, and in the backyard is the cat sitting in the yard with its litter box and its toys,” she says. “I talk to the neighbours and they say they had to move and couldn’t find a place for their cat, and just left it behind. In those cases yes, we do go get them.”
Meantime at the BC SPCA, Amy Morris says about 20 per cent of surrenders across the province are because of housing issues, about 1,700 animals every year.
“We are seeing an increase of the number of pets surrendered for housing-related reasons,” she says. “I think we are seeing it because of a tighter housing market where there’s lower vacancy and higher priced-rental.”
“It’s really quite heart-wrenching. A lot of people, throughout the whole surrender, they’re crying, they don’t want to do the surrender. It’s not their choice in a way, but they know its the best thing for the animal, or else they might be homeless or not living in a great situation.”
You can find a tips on finding pet-friendly rentals from BC SPCA.