Montreal

Lack of pet-friendly apartments in Montreal leading to wave of surrendered animals: SPCA

Montreal's SPCA says it took in 600 abandoned animals in the past three months from renters who said they couldn't take their animals with them because their new building doesn't allow pets.

The local shelter took in 600 abandoned animals in the past 3 months

A grey cat in a cage, with a bowl of food and water in front of it.
During moving season, on average one animal a day is surrendered to Montreal's SPCA because its owner is unable to find a pet-friendly place to live, says the shelter's executive director. (Thomas Deshaies/Radio-Canada)

While hundreds of Quebecers found themselves without a home after Moving Day on July 1, the housing crunch is taking its toll on another group this year. 

Montreal's SPCA says it took in about 600 abandoned animals in the past three months.

"It's something we see every year," said the shelter's executive director Élise Desaulniers. She said the number of surrendered animals during this year's moving period has climbed back up to pre-pandemic levels. 

"In the last few weeks, we received a lot of cats, many rabbits also, and a lot of small animals such as mice and hamsters," said Desaulniers.

Low vacancy rates this year have made it a struggle for many to find affordable housing in the city, forcing pet owners to make tough decisions. 

"I've seen stories from a young girl with an old cat that had diabetes ... The only apartment she found didn't allow cats so she had to get rid of her cat. Her cat that was her best friend," said Desaulniers. 

The shelter is also having a tough time keeping up with demand because of staffing shortages. 

"It's hard for us, like everybody else, to find staff to take care of those animals and a lot of animals that are in the shelter are older animals, sick animals, animals that need a lot of care. So it's quite a challenge." 

There is some positive news, however, as the SPCA says there have been no cases yet this moving season of people simply leaving their pets behind and abandoning them after a move.

No-pet clauses must stay, says landlord association

Throughout the year, an average of one animal per day is surrendered to the shelter because its owner is unable to find a pet-friendly place to live, Desaulniers said. 

Some 52 per cent of Quebec households have a domestic animal, according to a Léger survey conducted this fall. However only four per cent of dwellings in Quebec accept pets, the SPCA estimates.

The SPCA recently submitted a 33,000-name petition to the National Assembly calling for a ban on no-pet clauses in residential leases, saying they disproportionately affect low-income renters who have fewer rental options. The shelter is urging people to make this an election issue when Quebecers go to the polls this October.

LISTEN | SPCA official explains call to abolish no-pet clauses in residential leases: 

As moving day approaches, some renters may have to abandon their pets. It's an annual concern for the SPCA. Earlier this month, the SPCA launched a petition asking the Québec Government to abolish no-pet clauses in residential leases. We spoke with Sophie Gaillard, the Director of Animal Advocacy and Legal Affairs at the SPCA.

The Quebec Landlords Association (APQ) released a statement last week in response, saying the clauses are necessary for the well-being of buildings and other tenants. 

"Clawed floors, nibbled threads, carpets that serve as litter ... [This is] the reality of some dwellings whose tenants do not take care of their animals," the statement reads. 

The association says landlords should be allowed to ask new pet-holding tenants for a security deposit to cover these repairs — the financial losses of which are currently felt by owners.

"The APQ is sensitive to requests from tenants wishing to have a domestic animal but in the current legislative context, the risk related to damage or noise is too great compared to possible financial losses."

With files from Sabrina Jonas and Shuyee Lee

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