The P.E.I. Humane Society says it has seen an increase in the number of animals arriving at its shelter for reasons related to housing during the pandemic.
The organization says that so far in 2021 the number of animals coming from those who have been evicted or who are moving has doubled compared to pre-pandemic levels. 128 animals were surrendered for housing-related reasons in 2019 compared to over 300 so far in 2021.
"What we're hearing from pet owners is that they need to move for whatever reason — their lease is ending, they can no longer afford the rent, that kind of thing — and the only options they have to go to are not animal-friendly," says Ashley Travis, development and communications coordinator at the Humane Society.
She said the separation can be painful for both the owners and their pets.
"Of course, it's heartbreaking to walk in the door and drop your animal off," she said. "And you know they're going to go to a good home, you know they're going to be happy. But that initial change is very hard for people and pets alike."
Travis said there has been a particular increase in the number of cats and rabbits surrendered to the shelter, though dogs have also been affected.
Connor Kelly, tenant network coordinator at advocacy group P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing, says they've also been noticing more people having to get rid of their pets due to housing.
He says a fair amount of people who've been evicted are faced with the tough choice between keeping their pets or finding a place to live.
"These are people who may not have a service animal but those animals are really important to them," he said. "They're part of their lives, and the eviction forces them to pretty much figure out if they can keep that part of their family or they have to get rid of them."
He said landlords should see what's profitable when it comes to the places they rent out.
"Apartments and rental properties aren't just investments, these are people's homes and they have families and lives that are attached to these places," Kelly said.
"For those homes to require them to cut off a part of their life, like their pet or whatever kind of standard of living they used to have before they had to move, that's a big cost for people that gets missed."
Fears of property damage
Christel Prus runs P.E.I. Pet Friendly Home Rentals, a Facebook group which connects prospective tenants with landlords who own pet-friendly properties.
She says a lot of landlords may be hesitant to rent out their property to pet owners based on previous experiences with animals.
"It's very sad because there are a lot of families and pet-friendly owners who are looking for accommodations who have well-behaved animals," she said.
"Unfortunately, a lot of landlords and owners in general I find have reservations to renting because maybe they had a tenant prior who didn't have a well-behaved pet that caused more damage than, say, what their damage deposit would cover for repairs or what not."
Kelly says tenants may not even want to approach their landlord to ask for accommodations for their pets.
"There are people that I know who won't even ask for significant repairs to be done. People are scared to ask their landlords for any can of help, so asking for what a landlord would probably consider a luxury — people aren't going to do that very often."
Fortunately for the pets surrendered to the Humane Society, Travis said that adoption rates are high and the animals are usually able to leave the shelter pretty rapidly.
She says a lot of the pets they get due to housing-related issues are usually properly taken care of and are well-behaved and have no health issues.
For those looking to give up their pets, Travis said it's a "no judgment process" and that there are no charges for those who surrender their animals.
"All we want to know is why you're bringing the animal in," she said. "We don't judge your reasoning. All we want to know is what the animal requires and what kind of food they like. That's really it, and we'll find them the best home we possibly can."