Pets OK BC to rally on Victoria's Legislature lawn to end "no pets" rental policies

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      It’s no secret that finding a place to rent in Vancouver is a challenge. With a less than one per cent vacancy rate, and prices for units steadily increasing, the market is strongly skewed in favour of the city’s landlords. As a result, homeowners often place restrictions on prospective tenants and still receive multiple offers.

      One common constraint is that renters cannot have pets in their units. Squeezed by the inability to find a new home that they can afford—or even find a home at all—tenants are often forced to give up their pets for adoption, or leave them in overcrowded animal shelters.

      Pets OK BC aims to change that. Lobbying to amend the Residential Tenancy Act, the group intends to nullify the “no pets” policy put in place by landlords and stratas. Pets OK BC wants British Columbia to adopt legislation similar to that of Ontario, where for 27 years it’s been illegal for landlords to discriminate against renters for having a furry companion.

      “We currently have such a shortage of pet-friendly housing that we have thousands of families across the province having to choose between giving up their beloved family pets or going homeless,” founder Eliot Galán says. “That is a choice no one should be forced to make. Nowhere does it say that ‘housing is a right... unless you have pets,’ and I think most people agree that human rights are more important than private property or profit.”

      According to Pets OK BC, approximately 1700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPA last year due to housing or related issues. Tenants are likely to stay in their units 250 per cent longer if they have a pet, and peer-reviewed studies have highlighted that tenants with pets cause no more damage to a unit that those without. Women in abusive relationships are likely to stay in those relationships seven times longer if they can’t find a place that will look after their pets, and many individuals are dependent on animals for their emotional and physical well-being.

      To landlords, they point out that strata buildings without a “no pets” clause are worth up to 11 per cent more than their counterparts.

      Over the last six months, Pets OK BC has been circulating a petition that calls for an end to the current restrictions on animals in apartment buildings. Now, the group has reached its goal of 10,000 signatures, and will head to the B.C. Legislature on October 22 to present lawmakers with the document.

      Jordan Reichert, West Coast Campaign Officer for the Animal Protection Party of Canada, says he is unsurprised by the wave of support.

      “This is a social justice issue that deeply affects people and our communities,” he says. “Pets are not property, they are our friends and family, and even more so, our responsibility. Until we deal effectively with the breeding of animals and overpopulation, we must make sure every animal has a home.”

      Follow Kate Wilson on Twitter @KateWilsonSays