A motion being put before Vancouver city council next week would aim to give more power to renters who have pets, but provincial legislation would have to change before any changes come into effect.

Right now, landlords in Vancouver have the right to refuse potential occupants with animals. But councillor Tim Stevenson’s motion, which already has the support of Mayor Gregor Robertson, would prevent landlords from discriminating against renters on the basis of whether or not they own a pet.

Similar legislation has been in place in Ontario for more than a decade, and Stevenson argues that if it can work there, there’s no reason why similar rules couldn’t exist in a city like Vancouver.

With more than 50 per cent of Vancouver households renting, Stevenson says, and an average vacancy rate hovering around one per cent, it’s not always easy for pet owners to find suitable housing.

He said renters often face the threat of eviction if they ask to have a pet, and says many people end up surrendering their beloved animals to the SPCA because of a shortage of pet-friendly housing.

“You have all kinds of seniors, people who are widowed, and they’re not able to have a pet here,” Stevenson told CTV News, adding that animal companionship can improve people’s quality of life.

“All the studies show that if you have a pet it’s much healthier for you and you live a lot longer because you have someone to love and they love you back.”

This isn’t the first time the issue has been raised in B.C. The province examined the issue in 2004, but the decision was made to support the right of landlords and homeowners as to whether or not to allow pets into their properties.

Amy Spencer of the Rental Housing Council has a French bulldog, and says she’s had no problem securing a rental apartment with her pet.

She says there are health and safety issues associated with having a pet in a rental unit, and it should be up to the individual landlord as to whether they want their property to be pet-friendly.

“For rental units for a lot of people it’s their investment, it’s their retirement plan,” she said.

“We’ve had cases where landlords have been sued because of a pet dander in a unit when a new family has moved in and a child has had an allergic or asthma reaction.”

A quick scan of online housing forums in Vancouver reveals that not all pet owners have been as fortunate as Spencer, and have spent many months looking for a place to live that would accept their furry friend.

Chihuahua owner Leah Ehmen said her biggest concern about moving into the city was finding a place where she would be allowed to live with Lucy.

She ended up having to pay $2,000 a month for rent – twice her budget – in order to find a pet-friendly rental.

“It’s very difficult to find a rental, and an affordable rental, if you have a pet,” she told CTV News.

Pug owner John Foskett lives in a pet-friendly building, but admits it can be a bit hectic with all of the animals interacting, and barking.

He supports the notion that landlords should have the right to refuse tenants with pets, but says he’s fortunate to have found somewhere that is accepting.

“Fewer and fewer buildings allow pets. Some people are dog lovers and some aren’t,” he said.

The BC SPCA told CTV News it is currently meeting with landlord groups to help promote the benefits of allowing pets.  The agency also offers a rental housing resource guide for pet owners.

Stevenson hopes to meet with stakeholder groups to provide recommendations to the city to help renters. From there, he plans on lobbying the province to enact the changes that would enable tenants to keep pets in rental buildings.

The motion will go before council on June 11.