By Deb Hipp
You look at your Golden Retriever and see a goofy face-licking companion. Potential landlords envision less noble traits that can cause ruined carpet, chewed door frames or barking that annoys the neighbors.
Finding a new place to rent with a furry companion isn’t easy. One major reason that renters surrender dogs and cats to shelters is because they’re unable to secure pet-friendly housing, says Brent Toellner, president of Kansas City Pet Project, a no-kill shelter in Kansas City, MO. About 30 percent to 40 percent of the owner-surrendered pets at the shelter end up there because people moved, he says.
You don’t have to give up your pet to find a great home. Here are nine tips to consider before embarking on the search for pet-friendly housing.
1. Get a Head Start. Allow six weeks; extend that to a couple of months if you have a big dog or several pets. “Don’t assume that a landlord will let you keep your pet,” says Toellner, who added that many relinquished pets at his shelter are large dogs. “Ask up front, and allow yourself more time than you think you’ll need to find the best place that will welcome you and your pet.”
2. Count on Paying More. The average pet deposit ranges from 40 percent to 80 percent of monthly rent, according to a nationwide study by FIREPAW, an animal welfare organization in Houston. Part or all of that deposit may be nonrefundable. Also, don’t be surprised if a landlord tacks on additional “pet” rent.
3. Anticipate Breed Discrimination. American Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers aren’t the only ones getting banned by apartment complexes, homeowner associations and even entire cities. There are actually 75 breeds—including little dogs like pugs and French bulldogs—that are prohibited in various U.S. cities, according to Responsible Dog Owners of the Western States, which opposes breed-specific legislation.
“Just because a city or state allows breeds, doesn’t mean that a home association or landlord will,” Toellner says. “Be sure to ask the right questions.”
4. Do an Online Search. Search Craigslist under “housing.” Poke around on Google for “pet-friendly apartment” or “pet-friendly rental” and a city’s name, and you’ll see links to apartment guides that list pet policies. Put the word out on Facebook–you may get a great lead from someone planning to move to (or from) a pet-friendly place, or a great lead from a manager at a pet-friendly complex.
5. Sniff Out Other Animal Lovers. Call veterinarians, boarding facilities, pet stores and groomers to inquire about pet-friendly landlords. Doggie day care centers likely know of pet-friendly apartment complexes, since plenty of their customers are apartment dwellers. Also try animal shelters, dog-walking groups and pet sitters for referrals to landlords that allow pets.
6. Show You’re a Responsible Pet Owner. Obtain a letter from your veterinarian stating that your dog has no record of aggression and is up to date on vaccinations, says Amy Robinson, owner of Amy Robinson Dog Training in Vero Beach, Fla. Offering a larger security deposit helps, too, as does letting the landlord know the dog is crated when you’re not home, she says. Provide proof that your pet is spayed or neutered and is on heartworm (for dogs) and flea/tick medication. Ask your current landlord for a reference that your pets are quiet and didn’t cause damage.
7. Put Your Best Paw Forward. Did your dog graduate from the AKC Canine Good Citizen program or another training program? That certificate of completion might convince a landlord to allow your dog if it’s a breed that’s not usually accepted or is larger than the lease allows, Robinson says.
8. Tell the Truth. Don’t lie about having two cats; they could be visible to the apartment owner or manager if the pets are perched together on your window ledge. And don’t fib about a dog’s breed or weight. Be honest at the outset to avoid being forced to move out or give up your pet.
9. Introduce Potential Landlords to Your Pet. When new owners bought Robinson’s former apartment building years ago, they immediately banned dogs. She invited the owners to meet her 70-pound, well-trained Rottweiler, Maura, showed them the dog’s crate and let them tour her undamaged apartment.
They allowed Robinson and Maura to stay, and a few months later, new tenants with dogs—a pit bull and a poodle—moved into the building. “Then my landlord showed up one day and proudly showed off his new boxer puppy,” Robinson says. “The building has been dog-friendly ever since.”