Every year, thousands of Quebecers switch addresses on July 1, the date most apartment leases expire.
Mass moves coupled with the legal right of landlords to insert no-pet clauses in leases result in a dearth of animal-friendly rental accommodations and leave many pets in shelters or on the street.
"It's really sad to be seeing families torn apart like this," said Anita Kapuscinska, spokeswoman for the Montreal branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"The majority of people that are affected are those with limited incomes because their choice of residence is limited as well."
Quebec introduced a bill earlier this year that, if passed, would see the status of animals upgraded from "movable property" to "sentient beings."
Kapuscinska said advocates will recommend an amendment to that bill during consultations later this year to end the no-pet clause, which they call discriminatory.
A 22,000-name petition calling for the change was presented to the provincial legislature in June.
"We're going to work tirelessly to amend our Civil Code to include a prohibition of the categorical use of no-pet clauses," Kapuscinska said.
Hans Brouillette, a spokesman for an association representing Quebec landlords, says members have had bad experiences with pets and want to maintain the status quo.
Brouillette said landlords were surveyed a few years ago and about three per cent were OK with tenants having a dog while 19 per cent were open to it under conditions. They were more flexible when it came to cats.
He said it's often other tenants who complain about pets, citing factors like noise, safety and cleanliness.
The clause is often ignored, according to Brouillette, with landlords finding a wide array of unexpected animals as tenants come and go — from the typical cats and dogs to pigs and snakes in more exceptional cases.
The SPCA wants Quebec to take inspiration from places like Ontario, Belgium and France, which have invalidated clauses prohibiting pets in rental properties while ensuring proper recourse if there's animal-related damage.
But Brouillette suggested the clause helps prevent problems such as lengthy delays for hearings and decisions at the province's rental board.
"There's no way for them to be sure the tenant will respect the rules, correct the situation and pay the landlord if there's any damage," Brouillette said.
Capacity at the busy Montreal shelter nearly triples this time of year — from 600 in a typical month to 1,600 per month between early June and late August as tenants struggle to find pet-friendly apartments.
"We are very, very certain that if the no-pet clauses in residential leases were declared null and void, our abandonment rates would drop significantly during this period," Kapuscinska said.
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