Pet owners frustrated with lack of housing options

Solutions will be discused at town hall

Pamela Roth

VICTORIA NEWS

Jordan Reichert couldn’t help but feel concerned when he suddenly found himself looking for a new home in Victoria’s tight rental market.

Having a dog made the search that more difficult, but the thought of giving up his furry four-legged friend never crossed his mind.

“He’s part of our family and we wouldn’t do that to a family member,” said Reichert, who eventually found a new pet-friendly home in Fernwood after several months of searching.

“If you have a pet, it’s very precarious going into the search in the rental market. You just don’t know if you’ll find anything and you might end up taking something that either is more expensive that you can’t afford or take a place you might not feel comfortable or safe staying.”

It’s a situation Reichert has heard happen to several others in the community and one that’s sparked him, along with a group based in Vancouver, to launch a campaign to strike down B.C. laws that allow landlords and strata corporations to use “no pets” policies on tenants and property owners.

According to Reichert, many tenants and property owners with pets throughout the province are currently subjected to blanket “no pets” policies and bylaws, but the province has a glaring lack of pet-friendly housing amidst historically low vacancy rates. Instead, he’d like to see an individual based policy where people can have an opportunity to bring an animal in.

“The reality is pets aren’t even noticed by landlords or other neighbours and are often a welcome part of that community,” said Reichert, who’s heard a mixed response about the idea from landlords fearing they’ll be forced to accept pets.

“A landlord has a choice who they are going to rent to. That doesn’t change at all. What we’re just saying is consider people with pets on a case-by-case basis.”

The issue is also one that’s become an ongoing discussion at the Victoria SPCA since it’s one of the main reasons pets are surrendered.

Some people are seniors who can’t take their pets into seniors care, noted Victoria SPCA manager Annie Prittie Bell, while others were boarding animals, then lost their pet-friendly home. Rather than giving up their animal, some have opted to live in their vehicle while they try to find a new pet-friendly place to live.

In an effort to find a solution, Pets OK BC and the Mustard Seed Street Church will be holding a community town hall with key stakeholders, such as BC Housing, landlords, and those affected by the housing crunch.

Bruce Curtiss, executive director of the Mustard Seed, has several friends who’ve had difficulties finding pet-friendly housing in Victoria and notes the problem doesn’t just lie with those who are homeless or low income. It’s a matter that’s spurred him to reach out to local politicians.

“It’s definitely a barrier that’s there for many people, not just the impoverished, but just in general,” said Curtiss, noting many low income or homeless people have pets for companionship. “This is stopping some of our folks from getting housing. Let’s have a conversation about this and see if we can find a win-win solution.”

The town hall will take place at the Cook Street Activity Centre on Saturday, April 8 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. editor@vicnews.com