Suggested text:[Date] [MLA Contact Info]
Dear Hon. ________________________,
SUPPORTING PETS OK BC’s PETITION FOR PET-FRIENDLY HOUSING
I am writing in support of Pets OK BC’s petition to amend the Residential Tenancy Act, Strata Property Act and Manufactured Home Park Act in British Columbia, in support of families with companion animals, so that tenants and homeowners alike have the right to keep companion animals in their homes, and to void unreasonable “no pets” policies which have become prevalent across the province.
I support Pets OK BC’s initiative to follow the Ontario model, which in 1990 added a provision to its Residential Tenancies Act prohibiting landlords from imposing “no pets” policies on their tenants, and to go further to enhance the RTA to prevent unlawful refusal to rent to prospective tenants with pets.
Over 10,000 British Columbians have signed the paper petition to change the laws in BC so they are the same as in Ontario. I signed it, and many other people in your constituency have signed it, too. I ask that you, as my elected representative in the BC Legislature, please vote in support of this petition and the amendments to our laws that will bring about this most needed change.
In British Columbia, under the authority of Housing Minister Rich Coleman, the RTA was amended in 2004 to allow landlords the ability to charge an additional “pet deposit”. This did not have the desired outcome of creating more pet-friendly housing, and if anything reinforced the stigma that pets are likely to cause damages, which is simply not the case, according to peer-reviewed studies.
i) Surrendering of pets – creating a crisis for pet shelters, families, and the province:
According to the BC SPCA, over 1,700 families were forced to surrender their pets to shelters in 2016 due to the lack of pet-friendly housing, the leading cause of all surrenders. Countless others made the tragic choice to go homeless rather than be forced to give up their pets. Of the approximately 400,000 rental households in BC, only 9% of advertised rental units allow cats, and only 3% allow dogs (BC SPCA, 2014), whereas over half of households in BC have pets. This puts families with pets in extremely extenuating circumstances when faced with finding a home.
ii) Discriminatory nature of current legislation:
The City of Vancouver referred to the situation renters with pets face as “extreme discrimination” in 2013, when they wrote to the Housing Minister to support this legislative change. Being that only owners of detached single-family homes currently have the right to their companion animals, this is clearly a class issue that treats renters and owners within stratas as second-class.
iii) Lack of supporting evidence that pets are cause for concern:
Concerns expressed by landlords are not supported by evidence. To the contrary, damages caused by tenants with and without pets are virtually identical on average (Companion Animal Renters Study, 2004). The existing framework of the RTA has all the necessary protections landlords need to protect their investments from potential liabilities.
iv) Suffering and harm caused by current restrictions:
Permitting landlords to prevent families from having pets via unreasonable pet restrictions is not only unjust, but causes much unwarranted suffering amongst families and people who are the most vulnerable members of our society.
For most people, pets are treasured members of the family, with whom they share a deep emotional connection. Many rely on their companion animals for physical and mental health, especially seniors and people living with disabilities. Pets have been shown to reduce asthma in children, lower anxiety, extend the lives of seniors, and significantly reduce healthcare costs (HABRI, 2015). It is an established medical fact that pet ownership can reduce symptoms of mental illnesses, such as depression, post-traumatic-stress disorder, anxiety and more.
Women stay trapped in abusive relationships seven times longer when they cannot find a place to go that will allow their pets, according to the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies.
For senior citizens, their pet may be their only companion, and seniors often resist going into care homes or downsizing when they really need to do so, because it would mean surrendering or euthanizing their pet. Seniors with dogs in particular are encouraged to be more physically active and social, combatting loneliness.
v) In Context of the Housing Affordability Crisis:
Renters in BC already face an extremely competitive and increasingly unaffordable rental housing market. The additional restriction of “no pets” policies places an unfair disadvantage to a significant portion of the population. In its extreme cases, this puts people (and their pets) on the streets, and is yet another deterrent to attracting talented workers and entrepreneurs to the province.
CONCLUSION/CALL TO ACTION
Clearly, the time has come for British Columbia to enact a just and equitable law that protects renters and homeowners from discriminating policies, and effectively allows people to keep their families together. The petition to be presented before the Legislature will do exactly this, and represents a reasonable move toward a more family-friendly and humane society.
_______________________,_____ _____________ (City, Prov, Postal)