In animal shelters around the world, including at the Montreal SPCA, you’ll usually find this quote prominently displayed on the wall:
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — Mahatma Gandhi
In just a few weeks, the local SPCA is going to see the population at its Côte des Neiges shelters triple as the number of abandoned animals it takes in will go from 600 to roughly 1,600, as it does every July.
The lucky ones will be adopted. You know what will happen to the others, especially the old and the ill.
The cause? In Quebec, landlords have the right to insert “no pet” clauses in their leases, something they do with casual regularity. While about 70,000 Quebecers will be switching abodes in the annual July 1 moving frenzy, only three per cent of landlords permit their tenants to bring the family dog to the new digs, according to the Quebec Rental Board.
Cats, too, are often expressly barred in many leases, and some landlords will leave nothing to chance and forbid any animals whatsoever, from iguanas to gerbils to goldfish.
The SPCA will see many of these animals dumped on their doorstep, and hundreds of cats will simply be left to wander Montreal streets and alleys, adding to a feral cat population that already numbers in the hundreds of thousands.
Montreal has long been known as a city of renters. Two out of three residents live in leased properties and vacancy rates have always been extremely low, meaning the market usually favours landlords. Add the July 1 moving madness to the formula and it’s easy to see how landlords have animal owners on a short leash.
If you’re lucky, a landlord might tell you it’s okay to keep an animal and put the agreement right in the lease. Others will specify the type and number of pets allowed while others will keep the “no pet” clause in the lease, but tell you they won’t enforce it unless there are problems.
But it’s the landlord who holds all the cards and many won’t hesitate to reject your application unless you agree to dump Prince at the pound.
That’s something that Quebec animal welfare advocates have been fighting for years, and the battle heats up again every summer as a new wave of tenants runs into the padlocked doggie door.
Citing the examples of Ontario, France and Belgium, the Montreal SPCA is once more trying to get the province to outlaw “no pet” clauses in residential leases, arguing that other mechanisms already exist to deal with any problems that might arise, from excessive barking to scratched door mouldings.
Quebec already has the unenviable reputation as a haven for animal abuse and is known as the “puppy mill capital of Canada,” with hundreds of dogs seized every year from disreputable breeding operations.
Modest attempts at animal protection reforms have done little to improve that reputation. Continuing to turn a blind eye to the cruel and unnecessary mass abandonment every July just reinforces that tainted image.
It’s time to make some moral progress, Premier Couillard. Animals are an essential part of many Quebec families, and no one should have the right to force those families apart. ■
The SPCA petition to revoke the right of landlords to bar pets can be found here. Please sign it and share it with your friends. And if you’re lucky enough to live in a home where dogs are welcome, please consider adopting this July.
Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist and stand-up comic. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.