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)

USask guide aims to help put the welcome mat out for pets

University of Saskatchewan (USask) researchers have developed a pet-friendly rental housing guide for Saskatoon—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, Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), the USask One Health and Wellness office and the Saskatoon pet community. 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 guide] has lots of links in it to help people navigate the rental housing market,” said Dell, a professor in USask’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Research Chair in One Health and Wellness.

The new guide includes information about pet-friendly places in the city, rental policies in Saskatoon and the 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.

Unlike elsewhere in Canada, rental housing in Saskatchewan can deny prospective residents if they have pets.

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

“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,” said Dell, whose team developed the guide with input from over 50 people including landlords, tenants and representatives of housing organizations and animal shelters. 

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.

Dell’s collaborators included USask post-doctoral 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.

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

Beaupre, a fourth-year veterinary student, is a strong proponent of the human-animal bond and the concept of zooeyia—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,” said Beaupre.

Beaupre and her classmates provided feedback and consultation as well as creative contributions for the renter’s guide. 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.

“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,” said 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.