My family and I moved to California just over a year ago. As I embraced the stressful task of looking for a new place to live, I couldn’t help but think about the two dogs that share my home. There is Bobbie, a 10-pound terrier mix, who is a registered therapy dog, and Malley, a medium-sized, kind and gentle Border collie mix. Both dogs had been homeless at an animal shelter before I adopted them.
I knew being a family with pets would make it difficult to find another place to live, but I was determined to find the perfect home despite the challenges of the “No Pets Allowed,” or “Only Small Animals Allowed,” phenomenon that faces the rental market in California. It took longer than what we had hoped. We had to compromise on our original plan for a house, but luckily, we were able to find a place that would work.
But what would have happened if we hadn’t found a place that would allow our dogs? For us, that was not an option. Our dogs are a part of our family. Where we go, they go. I made that commitment and accepted that responsibility when I adopted them. I was willing to pay more in rent and a pet deposit to ensure we remained together.
But for many, this is not an option. Finding a location open to their pet – and affordable – is challenging and often results in an animal being turned into the animal shelter. You can always tell by a person’s body language when they are turning their pet into the shelter for financial reasons. Their head is down, their body closed and they look like they are going to cry. They feel crushed from giving up their pet, while the shelter ends up with one more displaced dog that might not find a home. It really hurts everyone involved.
There are many things that can be done to address the problem of not enough rentals that allow pets. I ask landlords and pet owners to consider the following:
- If you are a landlord, consider changing your “No Pets Policy” to a “Responsible Pet Owners Welcome Policy.” It really doesn’t matter an animal’s size or breed for them to be a safe community member. What matters most is that the pet has proper training, manners and a responsible guardian. Outlining pet owner expectations and taking the time to meet a pet in advance can help you locate wonderful tenants. People who care about their pets often care about their home, too.
- Modify your lease so your expectations of pet ownership are highlighted. Verify compliance before you sign a lease with a potential tenant. For example, as a home owner in another state, I allowed renters to have pets, but only if they were spayed or neutered and kept safely indoors. I turned away three people before I found the person who was able to show me their spay/neuter certificate.
- If you are a pet owner, be a responsible one. Make sure your animal is up to date on vaccinations, well groomed, spayed or neutered, and has a veterinarian. Take your dog to training classes and have them become a Canine Good Citizen, both of which come with a certificate you can show your potential new landlord. Bring references from previous landlords and neighbors to show that your dog is not a barker, is housebroken and does not act aggressive towards others.
- If you own a rental that allows pets, use that as a marketing tool. You will be able to find a much broader pool of qualified applicants. The more awareness pet owners have about locations available to them, the fewer animals get turned into the shelter.
As we work together to ensure pet owners are able to find homes that allow pets, we are also saving the lives of animals in need. For more information about responsible pet ownership, visit pasadenahumane.org.
Photo: Pasadena Humane Society