9 months ago


dimensions of wellbeing

dimensions of wellbeing (physical and mental) and a sense of social integration” 6 . This more holistic effect is has been cited by housing advocates as being the major benefit of access to pet-friendly housing. As Josh Prowse of Vancouver’s Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS) explains, “I’ve seen first hand the health, wellness, and quality of life benefits [of companion animals], especially for seniors or people with disabilities” 7 . In a study titled, “Friends and Pets as Companions: Strategies for Coping with Loneliness Among Homeless Youth,” researcher Lynn Rew considered the role that dog companions play in combating loneliness among homeless adolescents 8 . Rew found that dogs “were companions that could provide safety, unconditional love, and a reason to keep going because they needed care in return” 9 . Interviewees explained that their relationships with their dogs promoted a greater sense of responsibility over both the dog’s health and their own well-being 10 . The youth interviewed compared their dogs to friends because of the emotional benefits they provided 11 . Furthermore, they listed benefits of dog companionship such as unconditional love and a reduction of social isolation in addition to the physical benefits of keeping them warm and promoting exercise 12 . The benefits of dogs as companions has also been shown in other studies. For example, one American study found that petting one’s own dog has a “parallel relaxation effect to quiet reading” 13 . There was no similar effect when interacting with an unknown dog 14 . The suggestion that there is a greater health benefit to interacting with a companion dog, as opposed to just any dog, is valuable because it helps to bolster the argument that pet-friendly housing is what is needed so that people can establish close bonds with animals and build meaningful relationships. 6 June McNicholas, Andrew Gilbey, Anne Rennie, Sam Ahmedzai, Jo-Ann Dono, and Elizabeth Ormerod, “Pet ownership and human health: a brief review of evidence and issues,” online: (2005) 331, BMJ, 1252 – 1254. 7 Simon Little, “City of Vancouver asked to look into allowing pets in subsidized housing,” (2 December 2016), online: CKNW 8 Lynn Rew, “Friends and Pets as Companions: Strategies for Coping With Loneliness Among Homeless Youth,” online: (2000), 13:3, Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing (“Rew”), pg 126. 9 Rew, supra., pg 128. 10 Rew, supra., pg 129. 11 Rew, supra., pg 130. 12 Rew, supra., pg 131. 13 Baun, et. al., supra., pg 4. 14 Baun, et. al., ibid. Page 2 of 11

Pet-friendly housing is also a health issue because housing, in general, can have enormous impacts on health. These issues are particularly connected where people are forced to choose homelessness in order to remain with companion animals. While there is no Vancouver-specific data on this issue, it is a concern of pet-friendly housing advocates that “more than 10 percent of people who are living on the street have a pet” and there is evidence from other jurisdictions that, despite a desire to be rehoused, housing options which would be inaccessible to their companion animals was not an option for homeless people with companion animals 15 . Given that “high-quality housing has a positive impact on general well-being, psychological stability, independent functioning, and social connectedness,” any circumstance which prevents those who would like to be housed from being so should be of significant concern 16 . In a review of housing as a socio-economic determinant of health, James R. Dunn, Michael V. Hayes, J. David Hulchanski, and Stephen W. Hwang, and Louise Potvin found that “the socio-economic dimensions of housing are highly relevant foci for research in health inequalities” 17 . Of the attributes of housing listed in the review that have the potential to impact health, the psychological benefits have perhaps the strongest connection to the role that pet-friendly housing can be in increasing health outcomes, given the above listed evidence of the emotional benefits of animal companionship 18 . Barriers to Pet-Friendly Housing – Vancouver Despite the benefits associated with companion animals and the overall importance of housing, pet-friendly homes in Vancouver are highly inaccessible. Due to “vacancy rates hovering around zero,” it is “increasingly difficult for people who rely on rental units to find – and keep – their housing” 19 . As a consequence, pet owners face heavy competition when searching for homes and they are often forced to pay higher rents in order to secure 15 Little, Simon, “City of Vancouver asked to look into allowing pets in subsidized housing,” (2 December 2016), online: CKNW (“Little”); Randall S. Singer, Lynette A. Hart, and R. Lee Zasloff, “Dilemmas Associated with Rehousing Homeless People Who Have Companion Animas,” online: (1995), 77, Psychological Reports, 854. 16 Munn-Rivard, Laura, “Current Issues in Mental Health in Canada: Homelessness and Access to Housing,” Parliamentary Information and Research Service (2014), Ottawa: Library of Parliament, pg 2. 17 James R. Dunn, Michael V. Hayes, J. David Hulchanski, Stephen W. Hwang, and Louise Potvin, “Housing as a Socio-Economic Determinant of Health: Findings of a National Needs, Gaps and Opportunities Assessment,” online: (2006) 97:Supplement 3, Canadian Journal of Public Health (“Dunn, et. al.”), pg 11. 18 Dunn, et. al., supra., pg 12. 19 Mike Hager, “In a tight rental market, are tenants protected?” (18 July 2016), online: The Globe and Mail Page 3 of 11

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