MONTREAL -- The Montreal SPCA is asking Quebec landlords to be more lenient amid the COVID-19 pandemic by renting to families with furry friends.

In a petition addressed to CORPIQ, an organization that represents landlord interests to the government, the SPCA is asking for help to avoid a “catastrophe” at the shelter. 

“We’re asking for landlords to show solidarity and compassion to people who own animals,” said SPCA spokesperson Anita Kapuscinska. 

In under a week, over 16,000 people signed the petition online. 

“With the current historical vacancy rate of 1.8 per cent in Quebec and 1.5 per cent in Montreal, tenants are obviously facing a scarcity of rentals,” Kapuscinska said. “Combine that with lost income caused by the pandemic and no-pet clauses, it’s pretty much impossible for anyone who owns an animal to find a home.”

Because of the pandemic, the SPCA is operating with reduced services and less staff than usual, which means they aren’t able to accept as many animals as they normally do. Even if someone wanted to put their pet up for adoption, for whatever reason, they might not be able to. 

“We’ll ask them to hold onto their animal until the situation passes,” Kapuscinska said. “We are only taking in emergency cases.” 

With summer being right around the corner and it being the shelter’s busiest season, notably due to moving day, Kapuscinska is worried about the future. 

“This is bound to be extremely problematic,” she said. 

Meanwhile, a combination of decreased pet drop offs and an increase in applications for adopting and fostering animals has left cages and aquariums empty at the shelter. 

“Just to give you an idea, for the first time in a very long time, we’ve even managed to place all of our turtles,” Kapuscinska said. “Our turtles are usually the most difficult animals to place.” 

Moving to online 

With staff being short and social distancing guidelines being implemented among essential service providers across the province, operations at the shelter have evolved. 

“We changed the way we do adoptions,” Kapuscinska said. “People in the past used to come in with their families and speak to our adoption counsellors, look at our adoption kennels – now that first phase is all being done online.” 

The SPCA will contact people who’ve applied in order to assess their profiles to see if they match the needs of the pet they’re interested in. 

“Then we schedule a meeting, and if they’re meeting a dog, they’re going to meet the dog outside,” she said. “As you can imagine, this has slowed down our adoption process.” 

On the SPCA’s website, landlords are reminded that they have nothing to fear by renting to someone with an animal: tenants are obliged to keep the apartment in the condition they found it in regardless. 

Kapuscinska pointed out that the petition isn’t asking for laws surrounding pets in apartments to be changed, it is simply requesting for landlords to be open-minded. 

“They hold the key to be able to prevent a catastrophe in terms of families being torn apart,” she said.