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Pet pooches make finding a home difficult

It can be difficult to find a place to live in Duncan when you have pets.
Dana Bowman with her two dogs

It can be difficult to find a place to live in Duncan when you have pets.

That’s certainly been the experience of Dana Bowman, who moved to the community in the summer and said her experience in trying to find an apartment for herself, her daughter and her two dogs, has been “horrid,” leading her to eventually keep her pets a secret in order to rent a place.

It’s a plan that has now backfired.

“They’ve basically given me 30 days to either get rid of my dogs or find another place to live,” said Bowman, who received her eviction notice April 4. “I’m a single, middle-aged woman. They’re my family,” she added of her two dachshund dogs, Sydney and Brooklyn.

Bowman has been renting at Maple Grove Apartments in Duncan since last September and said she spent months before that living at a friend’s place as she searched for somewhere, without luck.

“Always as soon as they [landlords] find out I have two little dogs it’s like ‘nope,’” Bowman said. “Honestly when I filled out the application I didn’t say whether I had pets or not on purpose, because I’d had such a hard time.”

Bowman said she had seen one tenant who had two dogs, however, she later found out that tenant is renting from a private owner and is subject to different rules. Bowman also said the listing for the apartment said pets allowed. Unfortunately for Bowman, Maple Grove’s building manager discovered the pets in December. Courtenay-based Meicor Property Services manages Maple Grove and emphasized bylaws and rules need to be followed.

“In the bylaws they’re only permitted one cat or one dog,” Sims explained. “Also, when we do a tenancy agreement, if a tenant intends to bring in a pet — [regardless of] whether an advertisement says that we allow pets — they have to disclose to us that they have pets, what’s the breed, what’s the size? They also have to pay a pet security deposit for that pet.”

The pet deposit is one half month’s rent, a standard amount in most apartment buildings.

“She didn’t disclose to us, and had she at the beginning of the tenancy said ‘I have two dogs,’ then we would have said ‘you can’t have two dogs in this building,’ by strata bylaws. That’s got nothing to do with our rentals,” Sims said.

Bowman said she is of modest economic means and can’t afford a house or what she says are the majority of upscale places that would allow pets.

“I think it’s crazy,” she said, adding that the problem impacts many more people than just her. “There are more advertisements online for people looking for places that are pet-friendly than there are advertisements for places that are available.”

Bowman said she plans to “fight” the prohibition on her pets all the way to the tenancy board if necessary.

Sims said she is shocked an issue such as Bowman’s would gain media attention.

“From my perspective if someone doesn’t disclose that they have pets to a landlord and then brings pets in after the fact, then it’s not any fault of any landlord if someone’s not honest with you.”

An apartment in town that does allow pets, Gala Vista Apartments, charges the standard one-half month’s rent and allows two small dogs as well as birds or up to two cats. Resident building manager Jennifer Wright said “a lot of people” do have trouble finding a place that takes pets, but noted her building is pretty flexible as long as they aren’t snakes, rats, or large exotic spiders.

Bernd Doerfer, property manager of Mountainview Terrace apartments in Duncan said pets are no longer permitted to move in there.

“The old tenants who had pets will still have those pets but any new tenants with pets we’re not going to do,” Doerfer said. “It’s just too much trouble. Too hard on the curtains, too much dander, hard on the washing machines, carpets, just in general.”

Cowichan and District B.C. SPCA Branch Manager Sandi Trent said the issue impacts them as well.

“We have a lot of animals surrendered because they are unable to find accommodation, especially a lot of larger-breed dogs,” Trent said. “It’s not just Duncan, I think it’s become a huge issue provincially. I can see it from different sides in that you hear about situations where people [and their pets] have gone in and trashed properties and stuff. It’s a really unfortunate situation that the people that are really upstanding citizens, and these are members of their family, are sort of paying the piper for situations that may have happened to tenants and landlords that wrecked it for everybody.”