Joining paws in support of pet-friendly housing

Unlike the weather, the crowd was anything but dreary on Sunday, Oct. 21 as pet owners and pet lovers alike congregated in front of the B.C. Parliament Buildings to rally for affordable pet-friendly housing across British Columbia.

Dozens of families stood in the rain, side-by-side with their furry friends, to support Pets OK BC, an organization lobbying the B.C. government for more pet-friendly housing. After receiving 10 000 petition signatures, they have a meeting with the Minister of Housing scheduled for this November.

Dogs of all sizes, some in raincoats, jackets and some even decorated with signs, were sniffing around and playing with one another on the front lawn of the Parliament Buildings.

“Everyone’s paws are getting muddy today,” said one pet owner.

Dogs and their owners united to protest the lack of pet-friendly housing in Victoria. Photo by Sarah Mayer, Contributing Writer

Jordan Reichert, part of the Animal Protection Party of Canada and one of the organizers of Pets OK BC, credits not only Pets OK BC for their accomplishments in the past eight months, but all the British Columbians affected by “No Pets” policies.

“Pets are family, and that’s something we have to remember everyday,” Reichert said.

One guest speaker at the event was Russ Godfrey. Godfrey spent thirty years working for the provincial government and was involved with the residential tenancy branch for sixteen of those years.

“I couldn’t wait to get out,” Godfrey said. “You can’t do the work I did for twenty-six years without being kinda broken-hearted.”

The crowd cheered on Godfrey as he pushed the need for tenants to keep writing their MLAs rather than phoning or posting to social media.

“For every ten letters landlords wrote into the government about something, tenants only wrote one,” Godfrey said.

The weather took a drastic turn for the worse halfway through the event. The rain began pouring down in sheets, the wind getting so intense that the tents above the guest speakers almost toppled.

The final speaker of the day was Eliot Gallan, another representative for Pets OK BC, who made a joke about wishing he had laminated his speech. He discussed how up to 90 per cent of housing listings say “no pets” despite 80 per cent of British Columbians supporting tenants having pets.

Gallan spoke about how LandlordBC, an organization that supports owners and managers of rental housing, sees new buildings as the solution, rather than changing policies in older buildings. Gallan says Selina Robertson, the B.C. NDP’s new housing minister, agrees that this is the solution.

Gallan stated that the market is the problem. Even without factoring the price of moving into a brand-new apartment, many of these buildings will be purchased by investors who can quickly change their individual unit’s rules to prohibit pets.

After cheering up the now-soaked crowd with some pro-pets chants, Gallan spoke about his personal experience of being homeless following a “renoviction.”

Renovicton is “a tactic in which landlords attempt to kick out renters under the guise of renovating the suites before substantially raising the rents,” according to Renters At Risk, a blog dedicated to the subject of renters’ rights in B.C.

“Those sequences of events I really don’t like talking about too much because they were not the best of times. But you know who was there through the worst of it for me? My dog, keeping my spirits lifted as much as possible,” Gallan said.

“To be perfectly honest she saved my life, and gave me purpose and hope. Now that we’ve been together for seven years, after all she’s done for me, do you even think for a second I’d just abandon her because some landlord is worried about her chewing the walls or scratching the floors?”

To voice your opinion, you can send a letter to B.C. housing minister Selina Robinson at the following address:

Room 310 Parliament Buildings 

Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

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