B.C.’s housing crisis is a crisis for pets too.
With vacancy rates among the lowest in the country, finding a safe and affordable place to live in B.C. is a challenge — and, because of widespread pet restrictions, even more so if you happen to have pets, as roughly 65% of British Columbians do.* As a result, many people are compelled to give up their pets — their family members — because the alternative is homelessness.
The BC SPCA sees the issue firsthand, as these animals enter our shelters by the hundreds each year. In fact, a lack of pet-friendly housing is the primary reason that healthy, loved adult pets are surrendered to us — more than 11,000 cats, dogs and small animals since 2014.
Pet restrictions affect some people more than others
Around 33% of British Columbians have faced challenges in finding pet-friendly housing.* Low-income households are particularly impacted. Rent for pet-friendly places tends to cost more, and provincial legislation allows for a one-time pet deposit of half of one month’s rent (in addition to a security deposit). It also takes low-income pet owners longer to find housing than pet owners in higher income brackets.
Pet restrictions create barriers for other vulnerable populations too. People experiencing homelessness, including youth, are less likely to access temporary shelter and other forms of housing, soup kitchens and healthcare services when they have pets. Women in violent relationships often delay leaving, stay in or even return to unsafe situations to protect their pets. Seniors with pets are less likely to visit the doctor or agree to hospitalization and often delay moving into a care home.
These impacts illustrate the strength of the human-animal bond — the connection that people have with their pets and the difficult choices they will make to preserve that connection.
Pet-friendly housing is not just an animal issue
Research is clear that the bond we have with our pets enhances our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Pets help to:
- Alleviate stress
- Improve our mood
- Fight depression
- Make us feel less lonely and isolated
- Encourage activity and improve our physical fitness
- Facilitate our healing and resiliency
- Enhance our social connections and communication with others
- Create a sense of community
These benefits are evident here in our province. British Columbians agree that their pets have:
- Positively affected their mental health (88%)
- Helped them feel less lonely (87%)
- Positively affected their physical health (77%)
- Helped them connect with other people (69%)*
In light of the mental health crisis that is also evident today, animals are playing an even more significant role in people’s lives.
Because their pets mean so much to them, people are willing to compromise on factors such as location, safety and basic amenities when it comes to housing. British Columbians have:
- Stayed in a place longer than they wanted to because it accepted pets (34%)
- Settled for a place that is smaller/more run-down/lacking amenities such as a washer/dryer (28%)
- Settled for a place that is further from work/school/childcare/dog parks/other amenities (25%)
- Settled for a place in a neighbourhood where they do not feel safe (14%)*
Taking action on pet-friendly housing
The BC SPCA has long been concerned about the lack of pet-friendly housing in the province.
In 2018, a provincial task force was established to review the Residential Tenancy Act and come up with recommendations to modernize B.C.’s tenancy laws. The BC SPCA made a submission (PDF) along with numerous other stakeholders. Ultimately, however, the Rental Housing Task Force chose not to recommend removing the pet-restrictive language from the Act.
Despite this decision, the BC SPCA remains committed to reducing barriers for people seeking pet-friendly housing across the province.
Recently, we supported a resolution to the Union of BC Municipalities (PDF) that calls for the provincial government to:
- Direct BC Housing to develop strategies and guidance that support pet-friendly housing in the non-profit sector
- Consider pet-friendly housing in the BC Housing Strategy update and to work with stakeholders (including but not limited to landlord’s and tenant’s associations, animal welfare organizations, public health, mental health and seniors organizations, and poverty reduction and homelessness advocates) to find cooperative solutions to increase the availability and affordability of pet-friendly housing for all British Columbians while providing appropriate protections and mechanisms of compensation for landlords
The resolution was endorsed at the 2023 UBCM convention. The Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services made a similar recommendation in its Report on the Budget 2024 Consultation (PDF). The BC SPCA is eagerly awaiting a response from the provincial government.
Want to help? We know that people in our province are eager for change. In fact, 68% of British Columbians — and 62% of landlords — want the provincial government to create policies right now to improve the availability of pet-friendly housing.* You can voice your support for more pet-friendly housing in B.C. by taking our pledge.
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Resources for pet owners and housing providers
Below are three guides to assist pet owners, property owners and managers, and stratas in finding or providing pet-friendly housing.
1. Want to rent with a pet?
Our renter’s guide (PDF) has a template for pet resumes (a document that tells people more about your pets), sample rental agreements and answers to your frequently asked questions about renting with pets.
Pairing these tools with friendly, open communication with potential landlords or stratas can help you find a home for your whole furry family.
2. Do you own or manage a rental property?
Download our sample rental agreement (PDF) and learn about the benefits of making your properties more available to people with pets.
3. Are you on a strata council?
Our strata council guide (PDF) contains sample pet policies, pet registration forms and more.
*Stratcom poll conducted for the BC SPCA July 14-22, 2022 (n=1,000, margin of error +/-3.5%, 19 times out of 20)