P.E.I. Humane Society seeing uptick in surrenders as pet owners face financial crunch

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As the cost of living rises, the P.E.I. Humane Society says it’s getting harder and harder for Islanders to afford to get or keep pets.

Ashley Travis, the development and communications coordinator for the society, says she and fellow staff members have recently seen an increase in surrenders. Getting new owners for those pets is also taking more time, and the average length of stay at the animal shelter is increasing for pets.

Travis says there are several factors contributing to these trends.

The society usually sees a decrease in adoptions in the summer as potential pet owners spend time travelling away from home.

On top of that, though, Travis is increasingly hearing from Islanders that the cost of owning an animal is simply out of reach for them.

“That’s veterinary care, that’s food, that’s housing allowing them to have animals in care. There’s a lot of things playing into that,” she said.

Inflation plays a big factor in whether or not a person feels comfortable to have a pet.— Ashley Travis

“Inflation plays a big factor in whether or not a person feels comfortable to have a pet.”

As of Wednesday, the society had more than 200 animals in care, including both pets being held at the shelter and those in foster care awaiting a new owner.

cat behind bars
The P.E.I. Humane Society says it’s always in need of more people willing to adopt or foster animals. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

With the society is operating at full capacity, Travis warns that wait times to process a surrender may be a little longer than usual.

Rising rent a contributing factor

The Humane Society is also seeing animals with “really complex behavioural issues” due to sudden changes in their lives, such as moving homes.

“Animals come to us with, perhaps, food aggression because their owners got a second dog and they have never experienced socializing with other dogs before,” Travis said. 

“The animals are becoming more complex to handle, and all of that is feeding into the length of stay as well.”

However, Travis said many of the animals being surrendered nowadays are pets that were well-cared for in loving homes. In some cases, they are being given up because owners can’t find affordable pet-friendly housing.

Woman smiling at camera, CBC mic
Ashley Travis with the Humane Society says wait times to have a surrendered animal processed and accepted may be a bit longer than usual because the society is operating at full capacity. (Sheehan Desjardins/CBC)

Currently in P.E.I., it’s at a landlord’s discretion whether to allow pets in rental units. 

In late 2022, the provincial legislature debated an amendment to the province’s Residential Tenancies Act that would have given tenants the legal right to have animals in their rental accommodations. That amendment was voted down.

Cory Pater with the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing says the government should reconsider its decision to not go forward with the amendment. 

He says he’s been hearing stories from Island residents struggling to find rentals that are both affordable and allow pets, with many people ending up having to make a difficult decision.

“It’s a really unfortunate situation for a lot of people because they’re having to give up something that they see as a member of their family,” Pater said.

Cory Pater looks into the camera.
Cory Pater volunteers with the P.E.I. Fight for Affordable Housing. He says tenants are having to choose between finding an affordable home and keeping their pets. (Tony Davis/CBC)

In an email to CBC News, the province said there was much discussion on pet-friendly housing before the Residential Tenancies Act was passed. 

“We recognize that tenants have a desire to have pets as companions, but feel it is appropriate to allow landlords to have that discretion,” the email said.

Travis recommends that Islanders looking for a place to rent put together a profile of their pet, with reviews from former landlords, to show rental property owners when they see a unit they want to apply for.

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