According to the ASPCA, 7.6 million pets enter the shelter system each year. Among owners relinquishing their pet, the number one reason they give them up is that the place where they are staying doesn’t allow animals.
My husband and I have always had dogs and love all types of animals. It breaks my heart that so many die each year in shelters because people don’t understand that you can rent – even with big dogs. It just takes a bit more effort, but it can be done.
When we were first married, right before we left on our honeymoon, the audio director for the television station where I produced the news told me he was moving and couldn’t take his German Shepherd with him. The new apartment where he was staying didn’t allow animals.
We had already signed a lease agreement with our first landlord for a tiny trailer outside out Hindsville, AR. However, we went back to him and negotiated that we could bring this dog into our home. We put a pet deposit into the new contract. A few months later, we also adopted a puppy and again negotiated our lease with our landlord.
After our first year, the drive into Fayetteville got too tedious, and we moved into town. We found a nice lady and again negotiated that pets would be allowed with a pet deposit.
We lived there another six months until our landlady told us that she needed to move back into the house as her living circumstances had changed. We worked with her, and found our third house closer to the University of Arkansas where Chris was working on his Master’s degree. Again, we negotiated with the landlord for our two dogs to come with us. He agreed – with a pet deposit.
After another year at this residence, we moved into our first home that we owned in Springdale, Arkansas. Unfortunately, during this time we lost our smaller dog due to a brain disorder. We lived there another year and adopted an American Staffordshire Terrier before Procter & Gamble transferred us to Florida where I started my first territory sales position.
We bought our first home in Florida and lived there another seven years. During this time, we lost our original German Shepherd to old age, and picked up a Keeshond puppy and another German Shepherd puppy, bringing our dog count to three.
Had I known how our lives would drastically change, I probably wouldn’t have adopted the two new puppies. However, I thought we were in our forever home in Florida, and we could easily manage three dogs there with our big backyard and tile and wood floor home.
My husband then unexpectedly had to go overseas for graduate school. I held down the fort for another year alone. Then, when I found that the distance and time apart were impacting our marriage, I followed him over there.
I flew with all three dogs to the Caribbean island of Grenada. You think renting in the US is tough! Many Grenadians don’t see dogs as indoor animals. So, we had our work cut out for us again convincing our local landlords to accept our three fur kids inside the house.
We ended up living on this Caribbean island another two-and-a-half years. We lived in our first rental for six months, and then moved to a much less expensive place to save money. The new apartment was a bit of a drive from campus. After a year, we got tired of the drive, and ended up moving to our third rental much closer to campus. Each time, we were able to convince the landlords to let us bring our three dogs inside.
When we moved back to the US, we weren’t sure if we were going to stay in Northwest Arkansas. We ended up doing a month-to-month lease with a landlord in Fayetteville. Again, we paid our pet deposit and lived there another year before again moving into our own home.
Whew! I get tired just reliving all of those moves! There were a few more where we stayed with family when we came back from our life overseas, but they didn’t put up a fuss about the “grand dogs.”
So, if you’ve been counting, that’s seven rentals with landlords we had never met before with our dog pack! We are living proof that you can find nice places to rent with dogs. We even have two breeds that are deemed aggressive and are often outlawed from rentals: German Shepherd and an American Staffordshire Terrier, commonly lumped into the category of pit bull. Even though these are tougher breeds to rent with, it can be done if you are willing to invest the time to find pet-friendly rentals.
Here are some tips on renting with your furry friend.
This means that you should give your pets what they need to thrive, not just survive. Most of the destruction and property punishment happens from owners not meeting their pet’s needs. It just takes one bad apple to sour the landlord to future pet owners. Don’t be that apple!
You shouldn’t get a dog or cat if you’re not willing to exercise and train them. If pets aren’t exercised daily, they will often get their energy out in less than ideal ways – such as by dining on drywall or carpet. If they aren’t properly trained, they won’t understand what toys they are allowed to chew and what items, such as the blinds, are off limits.
Cats need scratching posts or they will sharpen their claws on walls, doorposts and furniture. They need clean litter boxes or they will use the bathroom in corners creating a smelly situation for the next renter. If they aren’t fixed, cats will often spray on walls, so you need to spay and neuter them to prevent this frustrating habit from even starting.
Dogs need mental and physical stimulation to make sure they don’t develop frustration or boredom and take it out on their surroundings. They need toys and walks to be happy.
Also, treat your dogs and cats for fleas and ticks so they stay healthy and don’t create an infestation in the house.
Be a good neighbor. Don’t let your dog run loose. Keep them leashed when outside of a fenced-in yard.
This all boils down to just doing what is right for your animals. When pets have their needs met, they don’t have the drive to be destructive and are very content to chill out till their owner gets home.
Put yourself in the landlord’s shoes. They may have had bad experiences with pet owners in the past that let their animals cause thousands of dollars of damage to their unit. You need to show them that you aren’t going to be another costly mistake. You have to sell yourself and your pet.
Put together the following documents:
It may take a little bit longer to find a good rental that is pet-friendly, so give yourself time to look for the perfect place for both your human and furry family.
It’s a good idea to check ads, contact real estate agents and rental agencies at least six weeks before your lease expires.
Call the human society, animal shelter or animal control agency where you are moving and ask them if they can give you a list of rental communities or areas that allow pets.
If you have real estate agents or property managers who own pets, they may be able to point you to a good lead. Additionally, ask an agent to set you up with with a rental search for pet-friendly housing. Most MLS systems will have this option available.
Also, check out the community apartment guidebook at the supermarket and do online research on pet-friendly housing. And, of course, don’t forget to ask your friends for recommendations on social media.
Most of the time, you will have to pay a pet deposit when you rent with animals. You may also have to pay for insurance to cover your specific dog breed or even rent month-to-month until your have proven you and your pet are trustworthy.
We generally tried for the refundable pet deposits when possible, because we already knew our dogs wouldn’t cause any issue and we would get it back. However, more and more landlords want to pay for a professional carpet cleaning service to come through even if the pet caused no damage just to ensure it is allergen-free for the next tenants. Honestly, you can’t blame them for wanting to do a deep clean so they don’t have to worry about people with allergies to dogs or cats reacting to their rental when you move out. This is just part of the extra cost of renting with pets. We all know those cute, furry faces are worth it!
Unfortunately, certain dog breeds are often stigmatized as more dangerous. If you own those breeds, and we happen to own two of them, landlords may be less inclined to rent to you. Again, this is where it is so important to provide adequate training and references. You can also offer to let the landlord meet your dog to show they are well trained and friendly.
The Human Society has a lot of resources for renters to help them understand their rights and how to rent with their furry friend.
Weight restrictions are often seen in apartment complexes, but you can encounter them anywhere. Again, these rules are often implemented due to the behavior of a dog, and the thought process that bigger dogs create bigger problems. If you can show your dog is well trained, the landlord may agree to a heavier dog because you’ve proven that he will just be a snoring rug while you’re gone during the day.
Your dog never has to be destructive when you aren’t with them during the day. When properly introduced and utilized, crate training can be a great tool to make sure your pup doesn’t create a mess while you’re away.
Our dogs were all trained this way until they proved that they could be trusted loose in the home. Now, we no longer need the crate because they have a good understanding that they are only allowed to chew their toys. However, as puppies, they were all crate trained to keep them from developing bad chewing habits.
Recognize that there may be some rental communities that will not open their doors to your pet, no matter what. While we all love a good crusade, it may not be the best use of your time. If they have a very firm “no-pets policy,” spend your time dealing with more individual landlords who are open to negotiation.
If you encounter a “no-pets” policy, and you think there may be some room for discussion, ask if the policy was created due to a bad experience. You can’t address the concern if you don’t know the underlying reason.
Depending on the rental community, you may have to go through several layers to reach the person with the authority to grant your request. Make sure the person you’re trying to convince actually has the authority to allow your pets into the rental.
In addition to the landlord’s approval, you may also have to write a written request to the building’s board of directors.
Show your landlord that you will keep the unit clean, and that cleanliness is important to you. Let them know that your cat is litter box trained or that your dog is housebroken. Make sure to pick up the yard area, so when you move out your landlord doesn’t have to deal with a mess.
If your pet does throw up on the carpet or make a mess, don’t let it sit. Clean it up quickly and thoroughly. You can rent a steam vacuum from most hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot for less than $30 to remove any stains. Make sure that you don’t become another bad experience that makes the landlord reluctant to rent to the next pet owner.
We actually prided ourselves on going above and beyond on the clean up process when we moved out. We always rented a steam vacuum and also scrubbed all hard surfaces until they shown. This gave us very happy landlords who were more than willing to write up a recommendation letter when we had to move.
If your lease has a no-pets clause, verbal permission won’t be enough. Once you have been given permission, make sure you get everything in writing. Cross out and initial any “no pets” terminology in your lease. Sign a pet addendum to your rental agreement so you have legal acknowledgement that your landlord has approved your pet. Request a copy of any pet house rules and abide by them.
Did you know that with some training, your dog could get a Canine Good Citizen award from the American Kennel Club?
We got our American Staffordshire Terrier, Mona, this award as a first step to her gaining entrance into a therapy dog program. Once she was a certified therapy dog, we then took her to children’s hospitals, nursing homes and even went to Alabama after the devastating tornado to visit the shelters as a disaster-relief dog.
One of the reasons we got Mona certified as a therapy dog – in addition to our desire to use her to bring joy to others – was because so many people were prejudiced against her breed. Unfortunately, this included landlords. However, when we showed her impressive resume that could only be achieved by a sound, well-behaved dog, they were happy to let us rent with her.
When we moved to Grenada, we even had the pet therapy coordinator at the children’s hospital and her veterinarian write her a glowing review. Not only did we have to convince Grenadian landlords that her breed was safe, we also had to convince the government to allow her into the country! It really helped to have all of those accolades already ready to go when we had to move overseas.
If you have a more stigmatized breed, you may have to work harder to find a place. However, if you get your dog a Canine Good Citizen certification from the AKC, it will go a long way to helping others drop the undeserved prejudice and see their inner cuddle bug too.
I understand that renting with pets can be challenging. However, if you take a little extra time to find the right landlord and prepare your case well, renting with a pack of pups is possible with a bit of upfront leg work.
If you must give your pet up, please try to find a trusted friend or family member to take them in, as owner surrenders don’t usually fair well in shelters.
Remember, if we can rent with three large dogs (two of which are usually flagged as problem breeds), across seven rentals in two different countries, anything is possible!
Your pets deserve the extra effort involved in finding a home that works for all of you! It’s worth the sacrifice to have those wagging tails welcome you home every day!