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Renting with pets in Canada: Hidden costs + provincial laws

woman in red and white striped shirt petting her golden retriever dog in the kitchen

You’re coming home from an exhausting day at work and you’re immediately greeted with a wild tail wag, sloppy kisses or soft paws on your face. All the stress of the day falls off your shoulders as a happy creature showers you with love. If you live in one of the 57% of Canadian households that owns a pet, you know this feeling. If this sounds like a dream to you, perhaps you’re closer to becoming a pet parent than you think.

Having a dog or a cat in your home provides immense pleasure but it’s a long-term commitment nonetheless. For anyone looking to get a better understanding of everything that needs to be considered before adding a pet to your family, this guide is a great start. We cover Canadian pet laws, costs of owning cats or dogs, and breeds that best fit your property type and lifestyle. Whether you’re a homeowner or renting, this guide on pet ownership is for you!

Pet ownership in Canada

graph of 57 per cent of Canadian households owned pets in 2019

A 2019 survey showed that 95% of Canadians consider their pets family. Given how much we love our pets, it’s no surprise that Canada is considered a pet-friendly country. However, there’s more to pet ownership than loving them unconditionally. Owning a pet is a lifetime commitment, and depending on your lifestyle and living situation, it may be more complicated for you to adopt a pet. 

For example, cats and dogs need to be licensed in most provinces and landlords have the right to deny you tenancy for owning a pet. But even if you’re legally allowed to have a pet in your home, you’ll still need to ensure that you’ll be able to care for it. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before adding a furry friend to your family:

Home considerations:

  • Does my home offer enough space for the pet I’m planning to get?
  • Are there restrictions on owning (certain) pets in my province, city or rental agreement?

Cost factors:

  • Can I afford the annual costs of owning a pet, like food and down payments?
  • Will I be able to cover unexpected costs that may arise during my pet’s life?

Lifestyle:

  • Will I have enough time in my daily schedule to care for my pet?
  • Do I have a place where my pet can stay while I work or travel?

In the next section, we’ll provide tips and information to help you answer these questions. 

Best homes for pet owners

Before checking with your landlord or diving into province laws, you should consider if the property you’re currently residing in will be a good fit for a pet. Simply because your pet could fit into your space, does not mean it will be happy there. 

Best dogs for apartments and condos

illustration of best dog breeds for apartments and houses

You may think that smaller dogs are ideal for city living but there are more characteristics that factor into this decision. If you live in an apartment, condo or townhome, these breeds will feel right at home:

  • Terriers
  • Corgis
  • Pugs
  • Basenjis
  • Greyhounds
  • Great Danes

It may surprise you that breeds as large as a Great Dane, which can weigh up to 55 kilograms (120 pounds), are good dogs for small living spaces, but due to their calm nature, they will feel perfectly comfortable in a more confined space. Just remember to take them out for walks multiple times a day.

Keep in mind that condos may enforce certain pet restrictions. Usually, these are bound to a weight limit of 11 or 13 kilograms (25 or 30 pounds) per unit owner, which would prevent you from keeping a Great Dane in your home.

You’ll have to factor in the energy level of your four-legged roommate before adopting a certain breed. But even a high-energy dog can live a happy life in an apartment so long as they get enough exercise.

If you live in a big city, you should also consider how well you can train your dog. These breeds are highly intelligent and easy to housetrain:

  • German Shepherds
  • Labradors
  • Poodles

They’ll also quickly pick up how to walk on a leash and listen to your commands when you’re walking around the busy city.

Best dogs for townhomes and detached homes

If you live in a house with a yard, you can bring pretty much any dog home. Since space and outdoor time won’t be an issue, you can spend more time looking for a dog breed that fits your lifestyle, family and energy levels. The following dogs will keep you on your toes and are a great fit for active people:

  • Huskies
  • Boxers
  • Border Collies

Families with kids should seek out kind and intelligent dog breeds:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Beagles
  • Vizslas

If you’re happiest cuddling up on your couch and having a lazy afternoon, a dog with a lower energy level is the perfect fit for your lifestyle:

  • Bulldog
  • Newfoundland
  • Chow Chow

Best cats for apartments or houses

illustration of best cat breeds for apartments and houses

Unlike dogs, cats require a little less maintenance. You don’t have to take your cat outside on regular walks or to obedience classes. Certain breeds will be easier to keep in a smaller space because their nature is more easy going and adaptable. Great breeds to keep in a more confined space like your apartment or condo are:

  • British Shorthairs
  • Ragdolls
  • Persians

Other cat breeds tend to be more active and may prefer a townhome or house to run around in. The following cats will get more freedom in a larger home:

  • Siberian
  • Savannah
  • Burmese

However, your cat’s happiness depends less on the spaciousness of your home and more on daily interactions. If you’re worried your cat may not get enough interaction, maybe a second cat will keep them company. 

Pet restrictions

There may be provincial laws that prevent you from owning certain pets. This is common among exotic animals (so please do your research before adopting a big cat like a tiger or lynx) but can also apply to certain dog breeds.

For instance, Ontario banned breeding, owning or transferring American Pit Bull Terriers in 2005. Laws like these are very specific to your location. It is vital to check city or provincial regulations before adopting a dog to avoid legal issues down the road. If you’re renting, check with your landlord or thoroughly read the rental agreement to find out about pet restrictions on the property.

Cost of owning a dog in Canada

illustration of annual cost of owning a dog or puppy in Canada

If you’ve concluded that your home is suitable for a pet, the next step is to evaluate the costs of owning one. For anyone looking to adopt a dog, these are the annual costs according to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA):

  • Veterinary care (flea/tick/heartworm prevention, dental care, vaccines, etc.): $1,149
  • Food: $1,031
  • Essentials (toys and collar): $104
  • Other expenses (insurance and license): $1,018
  • Total = $3,242

Annual license costs for dogs can vary between provinces and even cities.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself before deciding whether or not you want to get pet insurance. If your pet’s breed is known to require more veterinary care, your pet is old or has a preexisting condition, it may be worth getting them insured. Keep in mind that unexpected health complications or accidents can cost thousands of dollars so if you’re not insuring your pet, it may be worth setting an emergency fund aside to cover these expenses. Know that pet insurance prices depend on the policy, breed and coverage choices.

If you’re planning to adopt a puppy, there are more hidden costs to consider. While food and certain treatments may be cheaper in the first year of your dog’s life, you’ll need to pay to microchip as well as  spay or neuter your pet, which can add up to $675 or more. 

An untrained puppy is a recipe for disaster, so it’s best to take your dog to an obedience class. Until puppy graduation, this can cost you over $400.

A brand new puppy will need a bed, collar, leash and crate. These one-time costs can add up to an additional $300. In total, you can expect almost a $1,000 price difference for the first year of owning a puppy compared to ongoing annual costs.

Adopting a puppy from a shelter is usually the least expensive and oftentimes more rewarding experience since you’re giving a surrendered pet a new chance to live in a loving home. If you’re adopting, sterilizing and microchipping costs are usually included in the adoption fee which can cost up to $300.

A pet store can charge upward of $1,000 for a dog, often excluding spaying or neutering costs.

Anyone looking to add a specific breed to their family to fit their personal needs (e.g. hypoallergenic or even-tempered) should contact a local licensed breeder. Some dog breeds can get very expensive, so do your research before falling in love with a breed that may be out of your price range. Some of the most expensive dog breeds are Samoyeds, Chow-Chows and English Bulldogs — these can cost anywhere between $3,500 and $11,500. Affordable breeds, which are usually more family-friendly as well, are Beagles, Golden Retrievers or Boxers. Purebreds like these will likely cost between $500 and $850.

How much does a cat cost in Canada

illustration of annual cost of owning a cat or kitten in Canada

In general, cats will cost less than dogs with food, pet insurance and annual licenses almost half the cost as for dogs. The OVMA breaks down the annual cost of owning a cat in Canada as follows:

  • Veterinary care (flea prevention, dental care, vaccines, etc.): $968
  • Food: $467
  • Essentials (toys and collar): $33
  • Other expenses (litter, insurance and license): $615
  • Total = $2,083

Again, the prices for pet insurance and annual fees depend on the breed, policy and province you live in.

For a new kitten, you’ll also have to consider the cost of microchipping, neutering or spaying, which add up to approximately $500. Oftentimes, these costs are included in the adoption fee. 

You should also consider that your new cat will need a scratching post, a carrier and a bed. These costs are usually one-time investments but can add up to a couple of hundred dollars. Expect to pay about $500 more for the first year of your kitten’s life compared to the rest of its lifetime.

Bringing a cat home from a shelter will likely include sterilizing costs, making this the cheapest option and you’ll get the fulfilling experience of giving this cat a new loving home for free. 

Again, if you’re looking for a specific breed, know that certain breeds are more expensive than others. Persian, Russian Blue, or Bengal cats can cost anywhere from $650 to $5,800, while more common breeds like Havana Brown, Siamese or Snowshoe range from $650 to $1,300.

Renting with pets across Canada

As a homeowner, you may adopt as many pets as you like, but if you’re renting, there are added costs and restrictions to consider. Landlords may ask for a higher security deposit to cover potential pet damages. The laws for pet deposits are based on provincial jurisdiction, so we laid out the different rules below.

What you should never pay is pet rent. While this is very common in the United States, increasing rent for owning a pet is illegal across Canada.

Owning a pet in British Columbia

property pet laws and restrictions in british columbia

If you want to own a pet in British Columbia, check the tenancy agreement. Unless specifically stated otherwise, you can own a pet in your rental property. Your landlord may charge up to half a month’s rent for a pet deposit in addition to other security deposits. If you own a service dog, you can bring it into your home without paying a separate fee or deposit.

While you don’t have to register your cat, it’s required to register your dog in British Columbia. Prices can vary from $25 to $45 depending on the district you live in and whether or not your dog is spayed or neutered. Generally speaking, a spayed or neutered dog is cheaper to register.

There’s definitely good news if you live in British Columbia and own a pet: Kelowna is considered one of the most dog-friendly cities in all of Canada. If you’re a dog owner or planning to adopt a puppy, they will feel very comfortable surrounded by all the off-leash parks, beaches and forests where they can run until their paws get tired. 

Owning a pet in Alberta

property pet laws and restrictions in alberta

Alberta is the province with the most pet households in all of Canada. It is illegal to charge pet owners a separate deposit in Alberta. Landlords may charge reasonably priced, non-refundable fees to cover additional costs like more frequent air vent changes.  The landlord can refuse renters with pets tenancy if there is a “no pet” clause in the lease agreement.

Service animals are excluded from these fees based on the human rights legislation that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Unfortunately, emotional support animals are not considered service animals under Alberta law.  

Owning a pet in Saskatchewan

property pet laws and restrictions in saskatchewan

Landlords in Saskatchewan are legally allowed to ask for a pet deposit from their tenants. However, the total security deposit cannot be more than one month’s rent. This deposit may cover damages caused by the pet upon moving out, and tenants can further be held accountable to pay any damages that exceed the amount of the pet deposit. Non-refundable fees to cover additional maintenance due to pets living on the property may be charged separately. Unless the lease agreement states otherwise, pet owners are welcome. 

In Saskatchewan, license fees may vary depending on the city you live in, but you have to register both cats and dogs. You can expect to pay $18 for a cat and $30 for a dog in Saskatoon. In Regina, licensing a cat will cost you $20, while licensing a dog costs $25. If you live in a different city, your local veterinarian or government can provide more details on pet registration prices. 

Owning a pet in Manitoba

property pet laws and restrictions in manitoba

A landlord can charge tenants up to one month’s rent for a pet damage deposit. Should your pet damage the property, your landlord can use this deposit to cover any cleaning costs. Tenants can be denied for being pet owners in Manitoba. If you depend on a service dog, your landlord cannot charge any additional fees or deposits.

Under Manitoba law, pet licenses are required for both cats and dogs. However, prices can vary depending on the city you live in. While licensing cats and dogs costs the same in Brandon ($20), the city of Winnipeg charges a smaller fee for cats, just $15, than for dogs which cost $40 to register. It’s best to ask your local veterinarian or government for detailed information.

In Winnipeg, it’s illegal to own purebreds or mixes of American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

For all other dog breeds, Manitoba is a great place to be. Provincial parks welcome pet owners and their four-legged companions on hiking trails and even dog-friendly swimming areas. Off-leash areas are clearly indicated to allow for fun-filled adventures with your canine friend.

Owning a pet in Ontario

property pet laws and restrictions in ontario

Pet rent deposits are legal in Ontario and landlords can charge up to one month’s rent from their tenants. However, since security deposits are illegal in Ontario, they can’t use the money for damage coverage, just to cover the last month’s rent before tenants move out. A landlord may refuse to rent to pet owners and is also allowed to investigate if they suspect renters may keep pets in their homes illegally. In this case, or if pets are troublesome to the community, landlords have the right to evict tenants based on these grounds.

There are some province-wide restrictions to owning a dog in Ontario. It’s illegal to breed, own or transfer Pit Bull Terriers, defined as American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers or Staffordshire Bull Terriers. This law came into effect in August 2005, so only Pit Bull Terriers owned before the ban or born within 90 days after are allowed to stay in their families.

By the way, the best city to own a dog in Ontario is Toronto. It may be busy and dense, but the residents sure do love their four-legged friends. Toronto even hosts the annual Woofstock festival to celebrate their dogs. On all the other days of the year, forested walking routes, dog-friendly beaches and parks are the places to take your floof for a nice outing.

You are required to license your cat or dog, but prices depend on the city you live in. Toronto will charge $25 for a dog and $15 for a cat. Seniors may get a pet license at a discount. In Canada’s capital, Ottawa, it costs $22 to register an adult cat or dog. Check with your local veterinarian or government for cost details if you live in a different city in Ontario.

Owning a pet in Quebec

property pet laws and restrictions in quebec

Quebec has no official law or policy on pet deposits, so ask your landlord before signing a lease. Tenants may be refused for owning pets. Building by-laws can also prohibit pets in Quebec, so condo owners should review their building’s by-laws before adopting a pet. Service animals are always allowed, and renters may even have an emotional support animal in their home if they can provide a doctor’s note.

Over 2,500 veterinarians are registered in Quebec, making it a safe place for your furry companions. Only Ontario has more vets (over 5,000).

Pet licenses vary from city to city. In Montreal, you’re required to obtain a pet license for your dog or cat. A cat permit costs $12, and a dog permit $28 unless it’s for a service dog, which you can register for free. It is also illegal to own more than eight pets in Montreal, which includes a maximum of three dogs. In the close yet independent municipality Hampstead, a license will cost $30 (for sterilized dogs). Since prices vary, ask your veterinarian or local government for specific information.

Owning a pet in Atlantic Canada

property pet laws and restrictions in atlantic canada including nova scotia, prince edward island, new brunswick, newfoundland and labrador

Asking for a higher security deport to cover a pet is illegal in all Atlantic provinces except New Brunswick, which doesn’t have any legal rules regarding pet deposits. Landlords can refuse to rent to pet owners. If you need a service animal, landlords have to allow them in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Always check your lease agreement to see if it includes a “no pets” clause. Unless specifically stated, you may bring a pet into your home in all Atlantic provinces except Prince Edward Island.

An annual pet license costs $15 for dogs and cats. In some provinces, you may be able to purchase a longer-lasting license at a discount. Check with your veterinarian or the place you’re adopting your cat from if you have to get a license in your province since laws may vary for felines.

In the end, nothing compares to the unconditional love of a dog or cat. While it’s important to consider the legal matters and hidden costs before expanding your family, the warmth, fun and comfort a pet brings into your home are truly priceless. 

And if the first step toward adding a pet to your family is to move into a bigger home, Zolo is here to help you find it.

Sources: Pawzy | The Simple Dollar | Locnest

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Romana King

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, real estate expert and the current Director of Content at Zolo Homebase. Romana has contributed to business and lifestyle publications including CBC.ca, Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, MoneySense, Globe & Mail Custom Content Team, and The Toronto Star. Among her achievements, Romana won silver for her annual Where to Buy Now real estate package in the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. In 2015, she won a SABEW Business Journalism award. When she was editor of CI Top Broker, Romana helped guide her team to obtain its first KRW Business Journalism nomination, and in 2011, she was part of a small team that helped MoneySense win Magazine of the Year at the 34th annual National Magazine Awards. Her north star is to consistently provide actionable, valuable and accurate information that helps elevate the financial literacy of everyone.