‘Get rid of him, or go homeless?’ Affordable pet-friendly apartments hard to find

CALGARY – Julia Zarina and her well-behaved pitbull, Diesel, have been inseparable for over a year. But the Calgary resident recently lost her job at Suncor, and had to give up her pet-friendly apartment because she could no longer afford it.

“He’s my best teacher and my best friend,” said Zarina. “Just giving him up because I can’t find a place to live in, I mean that’s not a fair situation.”

“I raised him since he was two months old…Spent so much time…he’s become my family.”

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Zarina said after giving up her Lower Mount Royal apartment and meeting with landlords who didn’t want a tenant with a dog, she was faced with a difficult decision: “Should I get rid of him, or should I go homeless?”

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Lorna Curran, spokesperson for the Calgary Urban Project Society (CUPS), said it’s always been hard for pet owners who are low-income to find places to live.

“Now that the economy has had a bit of a downturn, we’re seeing even more of that,” she said.

The Calgary Humane Society says it saw a small increase in economy-related pet surrenders since November, and expects many more this spring. The tough economic situation prompted CUPS and local veterinary clinics to offer a pet pantry event for low-income Calgarians on Thursday.

Ryan Schiltz left with some free food and dog gear, but there was also pet care advice and information about discounted vaccine and spay or neutering programs.

“I always make sure that he’s got food before I do. So it’s pretty tough,” he said.

Zarina continues to hunt for a job, and just signed a lease for a more affordable basement suite so she could keep Diesel as her roommate.

“It’s definitely a big step down from where I am right now, but when you know that you are moving together…you just get grateful.”

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