To the director of the Montreal SPCA, the growing number of animals arriving at her door is a disturbing sign of the times. Pet owners are being forced to give up their animals because the city has a housing crisis and COVID-19 has only made it worse. "It all started as early as April, since the beginning of COVID," said Élise Desaulniers, executive director of the Montreal SPCA.
Many people put their cats or dogs up for adoption after being unable to find appropriate housing. Now, the pandemic's impact on people's income has become yet another hardship for cash-strapped pet owners.
As a consequence, over a hundred distressed families contacted the Montreal SPCA in June because they were unable to find affordable housing in a pet-friendly building, according to the organization's statement.
"When the landlords get 20, 25, or 50 applications for the same apartment, they will probably choose the person who has a good job, they will probably choose a family without kids and they will probably choose a family without animals," she said.
According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Quebec's vacancy rate stands at 1.8% and falls to 1.5% in Montreal — the lowest it's been since 2004.
With fewer housing options, finding a pet-friendly apartment is becoming increasingly difficult for low-income families.
In desperation, these families turn to the SPCA, which tries to find new homes for the animals but will take them in as last resort.
"If there's nothing that can be done and the person has been looking for weeks, and they're going to move next week, we'll take the animal in," Élise told us.
Since then, the petition has received more than 25,000 signatures.
The statement read "since people move all summer long, there is still time to show solidarity and limit the extent of this disaster that is currently affecting far too many families."
The pandemic has complicated animal rescue efforts for the SPCA, said Desaulniers.
Since April, it has been forced to cancel all non-essential medical procedures, including the spaying and neutering of pets.
You can still visit the SPCA to find a pet in need of a new home but adoptions are by appointment only, said Desaulniers.
"We didn't know what we were getting into," Desaulniers said of the pandemic. "The first thing we did was try and empty the shelter as quickly as possible to reduce the number of staff at work."
She reminded animal lovers to consider visiting a shelter or an online adoption agency the next time you're looking for a fur baby.
"I know everyone wants a puppy and all of that but an adult animal can be an amazing family member and you're really helping an animal get a new life."