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Valerie has not been able to find a place to live for almost two years.
Right now, she is living with her niece, but come December when their house sells, Valerie may not have anywhere to go because of a lack of affordable pet-friendly housing.
“I'm just trying to hang in for as long as I can because there’s no other option,” she says. “I’m looking at going into a shelter pretty soon if something doesn’t happen.”
Valerie is a 63-year-old Kelowna resident, and after renting in a duplex for 15 years, it was sold, leaving her and many others from the same area without a place to go.
“We couldn’t find a place no matter what we tried,” she says. “We are just surviving now… We’re stuck in limbo.”
Valerie says the biggest obstacle she has faced in the rental market is the lack of pet-friendly housing. She has a poodle, Mick, and a cat, Puddin'.
“A lot of them won’t take pets at all. They won’t even talk to you if you let it spill that you’ve got pets. Period.”
After two years of not being able to find a place where she and her pets can settle down, Valerie has put her belongings into storage, and she says she doubts she’ll ever see it again.
She is continuously hoping that something will come up but is becoming discouraged. She is currently in the process of going into a shelter, but she says that means she will have no choice but to say goodbye to her pets.
“It’s a pretty hard pill to swallow,” she says. “It’s gotten to the point where I've just about given up. I might have to give them away...It’s going to be a killer if, after all this, I still have to give them up.”
“They mean everything to me...What’s happening to all these poor pets people have that they couldn't find a place to take them to?” she asks.
According to the BC SPCA, approximately 1,500 pets are surrendered in B.C. annually due to housing-related reasons.
“It’s just a horrible limbo situation for them,” says Sylvia Crowell, a friend of Valerie’s. “I’m older person too, and if I had to give up my pets, that’s like giving up my children.”
Currently, a grassroots advocacy group is working towards changing rental policies around pet ownership in B.C.
Pets OK BC gathered 10,000 signatures on its petition to change rental policies that prevent people with animal companions from renting properties.
Crowell is hopeful that through the movement and the community, something good will come out of it for Valerie.
“I personally think, why are we discriminating against the most vulnerable and compassionate segment of our population? People who love animals are good people generally,” she says.
Pets OK BC earned the ear of B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson and met with her to discuss recommendations for changes on Thursday, November 9th.
If you're a renter or a landlord who has been affected by pet rental policies in B.C., e-mail News@KelownaNow.com.