A local animal shelter estimates that at least half of the queries they receive daily are about surrendering pets due to a change in living circumstances, namely that people cannot keep the pet due to their living situations.

Colleen Holden, intake coordinator at Airdrie's Tails To Tell Animal Rescue, which specializes in dealing with cats, said that many of the clients that she speaks with are put in a heartbreaking position.

"[Clients say] they're moving and they cannot find a place to live because [Landlords] now can say no pets," she said. "So, people are having to move and they don't have a place to go and so they're surrendering their cats to us."

The issue of pets and renting has been an ongoing discussion for many months, with prospective renters saying that if one is a pet owner, the market is almost impossible to penetrate

"I talk to every one of them and they're devastated. They bring the cat to our shelter and they're in tears because they're losing their baby."

However, Holden said that it's not just the pet owners who are suffering.

"They [the pets] don't understand why the they loved is gone. Speaking with all the volunteers that work at the rescue, it's the depression that gets to the cats that are surrendered. The animal is trying to adjust to a new life and it's very difficult."

Holden said that anyone who is considering becoming a pet owner should reflect long and hard on whether they are in a stable housing and budget situation.

"I would say those people that are renting must consider this [pet ownership] as a lifetime obligation. It would be better if you're a homeowner because you don't have to move; it's your choice to move and you would probably be moving into another place you own,' she said. "You have to think deeply and seriously about the life you're giving these animals. They need to have stability, just like you have stability, and a rental is not stability."

But, according to Stacey Maloney with Airdrie Veterinarian Clinic, Fen Vet, there are grant programs available to pet owners who are struggling. Maloney said that organizations such as Parachutes For Pet are but one available option.

"[They] help very low-income individuals receive access to funding for veterinary care, which enables families to stay together with their pets," Maloney said. 

She added that the Calgary Humane Society has also 'soft-launched' a program for low-income seniors (60 plus). Though not widely publicized as it is still in its beginning stages, the grant-funded initiative is available to those who meet the requirements and can also be self-referred or through a veterinary clinic

"If there's a senior who is facing surrender or euthanasia for financial reasons, they have potential funding opportunities."

Maloney added that another program that is accessible to all veterinarian clinics across Alberta is Tails of Help.

"Every veterinarian in Alberta has access to a $1,000 grant every year to help a client of their choosing [one that qualifies]. It would be amazing if all the veterinarians in Alberta could utilize the Tails of Help grant funding; the more hands that are willing to participate in uplifting our community, the further we can go."

And although there are funding options available, Maloney noted that the clinic, just like other rescues has seen a marked increase in pet owners facing devastating choices.

"We have seen that our pet parents are struggling to make ends meet and it's becoming obvious in their ability to pay for preventative care and emergency care," she said. "We do see instances where a pet parent is considering giving up their pets either through surrender or considering euthanasia if they're close to their end of life. For us, that's tragic and we are heartbroken whenever our clients are facing these situations. As a veterinary care provider, we strive to find solutions to help our clients."

Maloney also cautioned against absolutist attitudes towards those who may be facing a difficult choice as pet owners. Though she agreed with Holden about prospective, new pet owners reflecting on their situation, she underlined that there may be pet owners who in the past have had stable housing and household budget situations, but are now struggling.

"I think if someone is considering getting a new pet, they need to do the research and consider all the options of their lifestyle. But we do see clients whose financial situation has changed. We see it every day."

Maloney added that with all the knowledge that we have about pet companionship, including how it benefits the mental health of individuals, it's narrow-minded to simply say that those who can't afford a pet shouldn't own one. 

"For some of our clients that struggle with their day-to-day; sometimes having a pet is their only reason to get out of bed, it is their only reason to leave the house and so to take that enrichment away from their lives would be detrimental to their health and wellness."

According to recent statistics by Rentals.ca and Urbanation's, in November 2023, the average asking price for a one-bedroom home in Calgary was $1,736 and $2,108 for a two-bedroom. 

"Year over year, average monthly rent in Calgary in November for a one-bedroom was up 10.6 per cent and up 7.8 per cent for a two-bedroom."

Comparing provinces, Alberta led in annual growth during November, posting a year-over-year increase of 16.1 per cent to reach an average of $1,695.

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