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Some tenants forced to choose between their pet and a home

The tight housing market and lack of affordable apartments is making it harder to find pet-friendly rentals. It means in some cases people are having to give up their pets to find a place to live.

'They're literally everything to me these cats'

Eric Lapierre enjoys a snuggle with his cats at a recent visit with them. He's been living without them for more than a month. (Laura Meader/CBC)

With very few apartments available to rent, it's become harder to find a pet-friendly place to live — forcing more and more pet owners to give up their animal companions. 

Eric Lapierre had to give up his two much-loved cats, 19-year-old Red Edward and seven-year-old Rug Rat, when he took a spot in provincial seniors' housing.

"It's been lonely, really lonely," Lapierre said. "They're everything to me. They're literally everything to me, these cats."

Lapierre says he likes his new subsidized apartment but would never have moved there if he knew it wasn't pet-friendly. (Laura Meader/CBC )

Lapierre had been living in a house with family but health problems made it more and more difficult to get around there.

"I couldn't stay there any longer," he said.

Lapierre relies on a walker and scooter to get around, so he needed an affordable and accessible place, which he says was next to impossible to find.

Asked for pet-friendly place

He and his family searched for about a year for an apartment for him, and stressed during the application process with the province that he needed a pet-friendly spot.

When he found out he got a place in subsidized seniors' housing, the cats moved in too.

19-year-old Red Edward was Lapierre's constant companion. Lapierre says life without the cats is awful and lonely. (Laura Meader/CBC)

About a week later, though, the building's manager told him pets weren't allowed.

"They told me the cats had to go," Lapierre said. 

Cats help with the tough times

Now he has a place to live — but his cats, his constant companions, are gone.

"I'm just all alone home and I miss the cats something desperate," he said.

"It's been awful, just awful without my cats. They're just my life really." 

Lapierre came to CBC in Charlottetown to be interviewed for this story and was able to reunite with his cats there. (Laura Meader/CBC)

For now, the cats are staying with family, but Lapierre can't visit because of accessibility issues.

Lapierre's niece Arlene MacDonald-Smith said housing officials "never said a word about how the building was not pet-friendly," and she doesn't understand how the mistake was made. 

She said emotionally and financially he's not up to another move. His partner recently moved into a nursing home a few months ago. Lapierre also had a second heart attack around the same time. 

"There's been a lot of changes in his life," she said.

Eric Lapierre and his niece Arlene. Arlene helped him with the housing application process and says they stressed in interviews they needed 'pet friendly.' (Laura Meader/CBC )

"His cats have gotten him through some tough times. They are his life." 

MacDonald-Smith says housing officials should make an exception and let the cats come back, or pay for his move to a pet-friendly spot. 

She said it's a shame he got moved there when there are provincially subsidized units which allow pets. 

"I know there are pet-friendly units."

Pet-friendly housing units in social housing

Officials with government confirm there are pet-friendly and pet-free buildings as part of social housing.

"We try to make expectations clear to all prospective and current tenants," housing officials said in an email to CBC. 

"We are very mindful of the safety and comfort for all tenants and have policies addressing a variety of animal ownership situations," the email continued.

Housing officials said they cannot comment on specific cases due to confidentiality, but say if anyone has difficulties they should contact housing staff.

Lapierre's family say they have dealt with the building's manager and will try to speak with housing officials next.

Number of pets surrendered doubles in past year

Staff at the P.E.I. Humane Society say the number of pets surrendered because of housing issues has more than doubled in the past year.

So far this year 32 pets have been surrendered to the society, and staff expect more before the year is over — that compares to 14 in total last year.

Jennifer Harkness says the P.E.I. Humane Society is seeing more and more pets being surrendered because owners can't find pet-friendly housing. (Laura Meader/CBC )

"I think it's sad that people are having to choose between finding a place to live or owning a pet," said Jennifer Harkness, the society's development manager. 

"There's just no pet-friendly accommodation out there."

Harkness says they generally expect to see more pets surrendered at the end of the month when leases expire.

'We need homes for our pets'

The P.E.I. Humane Society hopes there's a way to have more pet-friendly spots open up and that landlords will consider allowing pets into their buildings.

Jennifer Harkness pets a dog that was given up by an owner unable to find a pet-friendly apartment. The dog has been adopted but Harkness says these types of surrenders are tough on animals and their owners. (Laura Meader/CBC )

Harkness says pets are important to people in their daily lives. 

"These animals are their companions, sometimes their best friends and they have to give them up," she said.

More P.E.I. news

About the Author

Laura Meader is a video journalist for CBC P.E.I.

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