Keep owners and animals together under one roof
Alexis Zygan // Contributor
Rhea Wong // Illustrator
After years of Vancouverites demanding a revamp of anti-pet housing laws, activists Jean Swanson and Peter Fry launched a motion on behalf of the Renters’ Advisory Committee. They also urged the mayor of Vancouver, Kennedy Stewart, to address the lack of pet-friendly housing with the provincial government. On Oct. 15, the municipal government unanimously voted to stop discriminating against renters with pets.
One property manager from Reliance Properties argued that some tenants are far too reckless to be trusted with animals. They worried that negligent owners will allow their pet to run wild, leaving behind a trail of stains and damages for the landlord to clean up. However, a negligent person is less likely to own a pet. Dogs crave affection, and cats, although more aloof, depend on a clean litter box. Also, through the process of training, a pet learns how to respect their space.
Some landlords are concerned about how pet allergies will impact the health of other tenants, and that barking may trigger tenants who have been attacked by a dog. Thankfully, there are ways for pet owners to encourage good behaviour with positive incentives. However, training is no easy task and requires diligence. I have seen first-hand the tiring process of teaching a dog to stay down and listen to their owner’s commands. Maintaining a clean space prevents other tenants from being impacted by the pet’s odour and hair. In response to wear and tear concerns, humans can be rather destructive, notably sloppy party animals with no concept of cleanliness—a broom and a mop are unfamiliar to their repertoire. According to a Companion Animal Renter Study, there is no notable distinction for damage recorded by tenants with pets versus those without.
Many Vancouver residents have endured a loss due to the shortage of pet-friendly accommodation. I recently had a friend adopt two cats because their previous owner could not find housing that allowed animals.
Statistically, 65 percent of pet owners earn an annual salary of $50,000 so landlords can expect to receive a punctual rental payment. However, pet ownership should not be so intentionally barred from the working class, often the people who reap the benefits of it the most.
News outlets across the city have interviewed residents with heart-wrenching stories of abandoning their best friend. These first-hand accounts speak to the desperate and traumatic measures renters take in order to solidify housing in a precarious market that discriminates against pet ownership.
Twenty-five per cent of animals dropped off at the BC SPCA are attributed to the scarcity of pet-friendly homes. In an interview with Global News, the Vancouver Kitty Rescue (VOKRA) shared how they often receive phone calls about rehoming. A few people have even gone to the extent of abandoning their cats at VOKRA’s doorstep.
Pets are one way to find companionship, improve mental health and lower blood pressure. Since lockdown, the BC SPCA has seen a surge of pet adoptions. This influx of adoptions instigated the BC SPCA to launch a pet-friendly housing campaign that included a resource to help renters advocate for themselves. On the rental site Zumper, pet-friendly accommodation comes with a higher price tag, with one-bedroom units ranging from $1,575 to over $2,000. In contrast, pet-free housing costs around $1000, and there are significantly more options for renters. Pet owners currently pay an extra pet deposit that accounts for the potential destruction caused during the tenancy. Statistically, 65 percent of pet owners earn an annual salary of $50,000 so landlords can expect to receive a punctual rental payment. However, pet ownership should not be so intentionally barred from the working class, often the people who reap the benefits of it the most.
Throwing a well-loved tennis ball to a dog in a park increases levels of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, and studies have even shown that pet owners visit the doctor less. Returning home from work to see one’s cat curled up in a ball, a dog with a smile, or rabbit joyfully hoping is a tincture for loneliness. Pets can be an expensive investment to one’s happiness, especially with emergency vet visits. Thankfully, the BC SPCA reduces barriers by offering subsidized pet check-ups for low-income residents.
Despite outrage from rental companies, Vancouver should prioritize keeping pets and their owners together. No tenant should have to worry about eviction after coming home with a furry family member. Ontario has paved the way for Vancouverites by stating that rental agreements cannot exclude pets. This new motion successfully reduces barriers to long-term stable homes for pet owners in Vancouver and inadvertently benefits city dwellers’ mental health knowing they can adopt without the alarm of housing disparity when their lease runs out.