Finding a home to rent in many parts of British Columbia can be tough at the best of times and, throw a pet into the mix, can become nearly impossible.

Pets OK BC, a grassroots advocacy group, is trying to remove what it says are unfair restrictions on pet owners.

Under current laws, landlords can turn away a renter if they own pets as well as restrict the number, size and type of pet.

"It's just unacceptable," said co-founder and organizer of the group Eliot Galan. "It's gotten to the point where having a pet at home doesn't afford you the ability to have a home unless you are wealthy or are willing to part with your pet."

Pets OK BC launched a paper petition calling on the provincial government to amend no pet policies in the Residential Tenancy Act, the Strata Property Act and Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act.

There is already a provision in the acts giving tenants the right to use their living spaces undisturbed — contained in so-called quiet enjoyment clauses — so there is no need for a specific pet clause, Galan told CBC host of The Early Edition Rick Cluff.  

The group have collected over 10,000 signatures so far and is planning to present it to the legislature as a private member's bill.

Eliot Galan

Eliot Galan, co-founder of Pets OK BC, lived in a van with his dog in 2015 after being unable to find affordable, pet-friendly housing. (Eliot Galan)

'A slippery slope'

Galan knows first-hand the struggle to find a home with a pet, he said. In 2015, he and his dog were evicted from an apartment after a renovation in a so-called renoviction. After that, he could not find an affordable place that accepted animals.

A renoviction is when a landlord renovates a rental unit with the goal of evicting tenants. Often, landlords do the renovations in order to charge higher rent.

"I ended up living in my van, down by the river," Galan said. "It became very difficult to hold down a steady job and it was a slippery slope that led to a deep pit to climb out of."

The choice for pet-owners often comes down to giving up a pet or giving up a place to live, Galan said.

"We have people going homeless all over the province because of this," he said. "They've done nothing wrong, many of them have impeccable references, steady jobs and no one will rent to them."

Galan said the group has received support from both pet owners and many landlords. A big part of the issue, he said, is changing people's perspectives about pets and rentals.

"There are landlords that have had bad experiences, I'm not going to try to deny that," he said. "Pets are not the problem, people are the problem. When you single out pets as what's causing this, you're missing the mark."

Pets OK BC is holding a rally for affordable pet-friendly housing at the Legislative Assembly in Victoria on Sunday, Oct. 22 starting at 12:30 p.m.

To hear more, click on the audio below:

With files from The Early Edition