Canadians have a reputation of being some of the friendliest people in the world, and a very welcoming country. This statement also extends to Canada’s appreciation of pets. Just recently a bill was passed that declared all animals as sentient beings; that’s how much we love our animals. There are cafés that specifically make dog treats, people are meal prepping organic food for their dogs, and there are dog walking apps that connect dog owners with walkers so that dogs aren’t left alone for too long (hey, that’s us!). When you Google ‘is Vancouver dog friendliest city?’ you get pages and pages of articles on dog friendly patios, shops, parks, beaches, attractions (yes, we also wrote on all of them: dog friendly activities, dog friendly hikes, and dog friendly parks).
But what makes Vancouver the dog friendliest city? Is it the fact that we have the highest number of vets? The most dog meet-up groups? That we have events with dogs in mind (like doggy beer tasting, and Whistler DogFest)? Yes, Vancouver has an incredible amount of dog parks, beaches, and patios; but there are a few things that Vancouver is lacking.
Dog Friendliest City lacking dog friendly housing
First of all, no matter how much we proudly proclaim we are the dog friendliest city, when you look at the housing that is available to people with pets — you will be astounded. The Vancouver housing market is atrocious at best, with the highest vacancy rate and ever growing prices of rental suites. With over 50% of Vancouver residents renting, and all the factors playing into the troubling market, the bottom line is that landlords have the upper hand. It’s quite simply supply and demand at this point. If there were an abundance of available rentals, landlords would be more willing to allow pets, so that they would draw in potential renters. But they don’t need to, so they don’t.
This isn’t a secret, nor is it totally uncontested. Mayor Gregor Robertson is all for following Toronto’s lead; Toronto landlords cannot ban pets unless the landlord or another tenant’s peace and quiet is “substantially interfered” with, if someone has a severe allergic reaction to the animal in question, or if the animal is dangerous. However, there is little that Mayor Robertson can do at this point. It is up to the province, and they do not seem concerned about this level of discrimination against pet owners.
Vancouverites love dogs, landlords do not
Half of the pets at the Vancouver branch of the SPCA are surrenders — 45% of those surrenders were related to housing. Near the end of the month, when people are moving, there is an influx of cats being abandoned. Yes, there are apartments and suites that allow pets — but not all of them are affordable. More often than not, the lower-rent places available are not pet-friendly. So, in Vancouver: renters are suffering, renters with pets even more so, and the less financially privileged renters with pets are suffering the most.
Landlord BC, which has approximately 3500 members, has a large voice in the debate. They argue that it is essentially a financial issue; regardless of the pet deposit and the damage deposit, the landlord risks paying out of pocket for damage. The CEO, Hutniak, argues that, although there is no concrete data on how often this happens, it’s the strong opinion of the members who don’t want to risk it. His solution is to build more rentals that allow pets – then the current landlords would have to be more willing to open their doors to pets.
How often do landlords pay for damage done by pets?
Not very often. In fact, rental properties with pets, on average, only had about $40 more in damage than those without — this is far less than any pet and damage deposit. Furthermore, units with kids had about $150 in damage; maybe we should ban kids from rental suites then? Unlikely.
Not only that, but renters with pets are more likely to rent for longer periods of time; 46 months as opposed to 18. This will reduce time and effort to advertise, show the space, clean everything in between renters, and conduct any renovations. I’m positive that most landlords would agree that they would rather have a renter stay for longer. Those without pets are also much more likely to break their lease even earlier than originally established.
Everyone vs Strata
I am not trying to paint a picture that depicts all landlords to be puppy and kitten hating monsters. Oftentimes, landlords really don’t care if there are pets in their suite or not — but strata’s do. Vancouver could be the dog friendliest city if strata didn’t care so much about pets! Some people and places are lucky to have their pets forgiven if they were living there prior to the rule. Most strata’s will allow at most one small dog or cat, but they often do not allow any. Renters with the time and energy can try and challenge this, but strata’s do not care; there are so many other people without pets who would be willing to scoop up the suite, that they do not feel the need to amend the rules.
Dog Friendliest City and Greenest City lacking dog friendly transportation
Vancouver has goals to be the greenest city in the world by the year 2020. One of the action items for this goal is to have “green transportation”; meaning the city wants to make the majority of trips (over 50%) by foot, bicycle and public transit and to reduce the average distance driven per resident by 20% from 2007 levels. These are noble goals, and would be a lot easier to obtain if we would allow dogs on public transit.
As of right now, TransLink only allows leashed guide dogs and animals in carriers. So, I suppose technically you could bring your German Shepherd on the skytrain with you, if you were able to carry the kennel it had to be in…
This entirely eliminates the use of therapy dogs for people who suffer from anxiety or other mental illnesses; further, this makes it almost impossible for dog owners to not have a car. Whether the owners need to get their dogs to the parks, beaches, or vets — if they don’t have a car, their only option would be to have to take a taxi (don’t get me started on that…. Uber, Lyft, where are you!?) which could be incredibly difficult and expensive depending on the time of day.
Eliminating cars in Vancouver
If Vancouver wants to be the greenest city in the world, they need to do two things: allow pets on transit, and allow services like Uber and Lyft to operate. Having these services available to residents of Vancouver and the greater Vancouver area would cut the necessity to own a car in half. In a city that is already not very car friendly, taking more cars of the road would be pretty ideal.
Allowing leashed dogs on the skytrain would make it much easier for dog owners to go to, for example, Stanley Park or the Spanish Banks. They would not have to drive there, and as such free up space on the roads!
Of course, there would need to be rules and regulations for this; dogs can only be on transit during off peak hours, for example. But, dog owners would be willing to abide by most of these rules, if they were given the option.
Furthermore, it would encourage everyone to use their cars as little as possible and take Vancouver on the right path towards being the dog friendliest city and greenest city!
What should dog owners do in the mean time?
While it seems that it will take some time for policies to change, the market does seem to be cooling down with the foreign investor tax on empty homes in Vancouver. Hopefully more landlords will open their doors to dogs in the near future. What you can do, though, is have a “resume” for your dog, with references where possible (from a previous kennel, landlord, house sitter, etc.); bringing a resume to the potential landlord can help you prove that your pet is a good one. Treat it like an interview, and don’t give up… you have a lot of work ahead of you! Here’s to the future Vancouver, the dog friendliest city out there.