PEI

Opposition asks why some tenants have to choose between housing and their pets

The Official Opposition wants to know how the P.E.I. government plans to help people who are looking for social housing keep their pets.

'They are a key part of people's emotional support and well-being'

The Humane Society recently reported an increase in the number of animals being surrendered due to evictions or housing issues. (Shutterstock / Okssi)

The Official Opposition wants to know how the P.E.I. government plans to help people who are looking for social housing keep their pets.

Last month, officials with the P.E.I. Humane Society said there has been an increase in the number of animals arriving at its shelter for reasons related to housing during the pandemic. It's a problem they say is still happening and expect to continue for some time.

Green MLA Karla Bernard raised the issue during question period Wednesday asking Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers if pets were allowed in all housing owned and operated by the province. 

Trivers said the answer is no. 

Bernard said pets are an integral part of some family units and asked why some Islanders should have to choose between a place to live and keeping their pet.

Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers says he knows finding pet-friendly units is a big challenge for many still waiting on the province's housing registry. (Rick Gibbs/CBC)

"They are a key part of people's emotional support and well-being. I hear all the time, 'I cannot leave without my cat, my dog, whatever, they're the reason I'm still here,'" Bernard said. 

"The difference between you and I, minister, and someone else is that we're homeowners," she said. "Why should tenants have to accept a lower quality of life without their pets, when homeowners like you and I don't have to make that choice?" 

Minister says he wants to find more options

Trivers said he knows finding pet-friendly units is a major challenge for many people on the province's housing registry. According to the province's latest numbers, there are 310 people waiting for housing on that registry.

He said he'd like to work with the Opposition to come up with solutions.

"There are places out there where tenants are allowed to have pets, probably more that don't, and landlords, of course, are the ones that are making that decision," Trivers said. 

"But within our social housing, that's something that is in control of our department for the most part." 

According to the department, any service animal with proper paperwork is allowed in any government-owned unit.

Trivers said when it comes to the 460 family-housing units in the province, policies around pets within units are determined by individual family-housing boards. This means the types of pets allowed can vary depending on location. Some don't allow pets at all, like those in Tignish and O'Leary, others like Alberton or Souris allow only certain pets — like cats or birds. 

Green MLA Karla Bernard says pets play an important part in a person's wellness and mental health, and people shouldn't have to give them up to secure a place to live. (Legislative Assembly of PEI)

But, Trivers said the department has direct control over provincially-owned seniors-housing units. According to the province, out of about 1,100 seniors units across the province 1,026 allow a small pet.

There are also 17 standalone family units operated by the province that allow pets, including dogs. 

The department said it also has 418 long-term leases with private developers, of which 143 allow pets but only about 100 of those allow dogs.

Trivers said he knows this is a still problem for many across the Island and he will ask his department to explore ways to expand the number of pet-friendly options.

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