A puppy chews on a toy.
A group of University of Saskatchewan researchers has created a pet-friendly rental housing guide, in hopes of welcoming more pets into rental properties. Photo: Caitlin Taylor.

Guide aims to help put the welcome mat out for pets

A team of researchers at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) are part of an initiative to explore the benefits of welcoming companion animals in places where they wouldn’t normally be allowed.

By Jessica Colby

PAWS in Places, led by Dr. Colleen Dell (PhD), is a collaboration between Royal Canin, the WCVM and the USask One Health and Wellness office. Its goal is to share evidence-based knowledge that will raise awareness about the potential benefits of allowing pets in the workplace, rental housing and other establishments.

The team’s most recent development is a pet-friendly rental housing guide for the city of Saskatoon.

“We are supported by Royal Canin, and they had approached us to do something about the potential benefits of pets in places where you don’t typically find a companion animal,” says Dell, a professor in USask College of Arts and Sciences and the Research Chair in One Health and Wellness. “[The guide] has lots of links in it to help people navigate the rental housing market.”

The new guide includes information about pet-friendly places in the city, rental policies in Saskatoon and province of Saskatchewan, tenant rights, older adult residences and regulations for both service and emotional support animals. It also provides templates and fillable resources for pet resumés and pet references.

“It can be helpful to tell your landlord about your pet and what their background is,” says Dell.

For landlords, the guide includes resources about the benefits of making their properties pet-friendly and a sample policy of a pet-friendly rental property.

Dell’s collaborators included USask postdoctoral fellows Dr. Holly McKenzie (PhD) and Dr. Linzi Williamson (PhD). As well, WCVM professor and small animal internal medicine specialist Dr. Liz Snead (DVM) served as the veterinary college’s lead on the project.

This is the second project introduced by PAWS in Places: last year, the group conducted a “pets in the workplace” project at a local Saskatoon office. 

“Underlying all of this is the human-animal bond and how important the bond is between us and our animals,” says Dell. “How important that bond is to individuals, how important it is to our health, how important it is to the animal’s health.”

The Saskatoon pet-friendly rental housing project drew from two other existing pet guides for rentals: the Pet-Friendly Housing Renters Guide by the Regina Humane Society and the Renter’s Guide by the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Unlike other Canadian provinces, rental housing in Saskatchewan can deny prospective residents if they have pets.

“Here, it’s really difficult to find housing if you have a pet and for some housing rentals, if they do allow pets, then there are deposit fees and other types of fees that can make it really prohibitive for people as well,” says Dell. “There needs to be awareness raised in the community about the importance of pets in housing to the people who are renting as well as landlords.”

People who reside in pet-friendly rentals tend to stay for longer periods of time. The addition of more pet-friendly housing in Saskatchewan has the potential to be helpful not only for people looking to rent, but for their pets as well.

WCVM veterinary students Kaylyn Kubes, Erynn Buhr, Breeze Agar and Catherine Beaupre also worked on the project, along with USask social science students Kayla Arisman, Maryellen Gibson and Aliya Khalid. Ben Carey, a researcher in the One Health and Wellness Office, and Alexandria Pavelich, a USask Arts and Science PhD student, were also involved in the project.

“I am strong proponent of the human-animal bond and the concept of zooeyia,” says Beaupre, using a term that describes the positive benefits to human health from interacting with animals. “I truly see the need for further public education and awareness on the positive health impacts that pets can provide for people — physically, mentally and socially.”

The veterinary students provided feedback and consultation as well as creative contributions for the renter’s guide — including tips for finding and keeping pet-friendly housing, sample pet resumés and reference forms, says Beaupre.

“I have an interest in healthy aging initiatives for older adults, so I have brought the concepts of aging in place and alignment with age-friendly communities to the project,” says Beaupre, a fourth-year veterinary student.

Each person who worked on the project was responsible for a different section — such as collecting information about pets in emergency shelters or investigating the human-animal bond. All of the tasks were split up between the veterinary students, social science students and members of the One Health office.

“It was really great to work between the vet students and sociology and our students in the One Health office because everyone’s bringing in a different view and everyone has a different background,” says Dell. “It’s a really great, forward-thinking group.”

“Having the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary team has been such a rewarding learning experience,” adds Beaupre.

Each year, the Saskatoon Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) cares for about 4,000 animals. Of those animals, many of them are surrendered by owners who are moving and can’t take their pets with them to their new rentals.

“Imagine being able to bring down that population,” says Dell. “That would be amazing.” 

While this guide is specific to Saskatoon, Dell says the document — along with other guides from B.C. and Regina — are ideal templates for similar initiatives in other communities.

“It does apply to Saskatchewan and others could look at it as well and even look at creating for their own city, which would be really helpful,” says Dell.

Click here to download the Saskatoon Pet-friendly Rental Housing Guide and print-ready posters on the PAWS in Places website. Printed posters are also available for organizations.