Pandemic isolation prompts push for more pet-friendly housing
VANCOUVER -- The increased isolation many British Columbians are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a push for more pet-friendly housing.
On Thursday, Vancouver city council unanimously passed a motion calling on the provincial government to ban "no pets" clauses from rental contracts.
The motion, put forward by councillors Pete Fry and Jean Swanson, notes the challenges that physical distancing rules have put on people, particularly "seniors, under-housed individuals, and those who live alone."
"It has become clear that pets can help ease this isolation," it reads.
Speaking to CTV News after the vote, Fry acknowledged the motion is an "advocacy piece," as the city doesn't have the authority to make necessary changes to the Residential Tenancy Act.
"We're asking the province to do this," he said. "(To) allow folks with pets to not be discriminated against before they even get in the door."
City staff have also been asked to investigate ways Vancouver can potentially "curb landlords' right to refuse rental on the basis of pet ownership," though it's unclear how that might work.
The BC SPCA called the vote a step in the right direction.
Marcy Moriarty, the animal welfare organization's chief prevention and enforcement officer, said roughly one-in-five of the pets surrendered to the SPCA are given up because of housing-related issues.
"I think anybody who has pets and has tried to look for rentals knows it's very challenging," Moriarty said.
The BC SPCA, which has launched its own campaign to promote pet-friendly housing, also noted there have been several studies associating pet ownership with better physical and mental health.
Moriarty said responsible dog owners have their daily walks, which often results in interacting with other people in their community, and that even living with a cat helps relieve stress and loneliness.
"They're providing that companionship, they can reduce anxiety, and since we're looking at an elderly population that is more isolated at home, these pets are even more important than ever right now," Moriarty said.
Earlier this year, Port Moody city council also unanimously passed a resolution calling on the provincial government to update the Strata Act and Residential Tenancy Act to prevent pet owners from being denied housing – similar to what Ontario did years ago.
Not everyone agrees that pet owners should be protected by law, however. David Hutniak, CEO of LandlordBC, declined a request from CTV News to comment on the City of Vancouver motion, but has previously said that destruction caused by pets often exceeds the tenant's damage deposit, and that forcing people to rent to pet owners wouldn't be fair to property owners with asthma or allergies.
A 2018 survey by the Angus Reid Institute also found the majority of Canadians believe landlords should be able to set their own rules when it comes to pets.
But Moriarty argued that in some ways, pet owners can actually be better tenants.
"There's information to support that on average, renters with pets stay longer within a unit and they're willing to pay more for rental accommodation – so those are two positive things," she said.
The Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing declined to comment on the motion, noting that provincial government communications are limited during the run-up to the election.