Pet-friendly Co-ops: Benefits and Barriers

  4 October 2023

For many, pets are family, but pet-friendly housing has its challenges.

Guest post by:

  • Meghann Cant, BC SPCA Manager of Companion Animal Welfare Science & Policy
  • Sarah Herring, BC SPCA Government Relations Officer

What does ‘home’ mean to you?

Domestic cat at home

Research is clear that housing is key to our health and well-being. Having a safe and affordable place to live gives us a sense of stability, belonging and security. And, for many, ‘home’ includes those we share our lives with – the people and pets we call family.

However, with vacancy rates among the lowest in the country right now, finding safe and affordable housing in B.C. is a challenge—and because of widespread pet restrictions, even more so if you happen to have pets, as more than half of British Columbians do. In a poll[1] conducted for the BC SPCA last year, one-third of British Columbians said they have had difficulty finding a place to live that accepts pets. Among them, women, households with children, people under 35 and lower-income households reported the greatest difficulty.

As a result, even though people love their animals and see them as family members, many are being forced to give them up because the alternative is homelessness. The BC SPCA sees the issue firsthand, as these animals enter our shelters by the hundreds each year. In fact, a lack of pet-friendly housing continues to be the primary reason for the surrender of healthy, loved adult pets across the province.

Benefits of Pet-Friendly Housing

Face of black French bulldog watching ahead while resting on sofa with his master using laptop in background

But pet-friendly housing is more than just an animal issue. There is a wealth of research on the benefits of pets to physical and mental health, childhood development and healthy aging. Among other positive impacts, pets help to:

  • alleviate stress,
  • improve mood and fight depression,
  • address social isolation and reduce loneliness,
  • improve physical fitness and encourage activity, and
  • facilitate healing and resiliency.[2]

In the same 2022 poll1, British Columbians strongly agreed their pets have enhanced their health and helped them form vital social connections. Women, people under 35 and lower-income households were the most likely to agree—meaning that those reporting the greatest reliance on their pets for support are the ones most at risk of having to give them up to secure housing.

Your Turn

Close up of small caged colorful birds in pet store in morning sun

BC SPCA recognizes the importance of the human-animal bond. They want to help keep people and their pets together. At the same time, providing pet-friendly housing is not without challenges. Whether your co-op allows pets or not, we would appreciate hearing about your experiences.

BC SPCA is requesting help to identify the barriers and challenges co-ops faces. They would also like to know what resources and supports you need to address those challenges.

Please help them and complete a survey or email to arrange a virtual discussion.

CHF BC Resources

cat and labrador dog near laptop and blurred pillows on bed,stock image

Our Co-op Services team has developed a sample Pet Policy [PDF | Word] and Discussion Notes [PDF] We hope that these resources will guide co-ops in developing responsible pet policies that meet the needs of your community.

If you have any questions regarding pets on your co-op, please email us.

[1] Stratcom poll conducted for the BC SPCA July 14-22, 2022 (n=1,000, margin of error +/-3.5%, 19 times out of 20)

[2] Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI). (n.d.). Research: Understanding the human-animal bond.