Finding a New Home for You and Your Dog
Finding dog-friendly housing can be tough, especially if your best friend is a pit bull or pit bull mix. Rejection hurts, but don’t panic! Instead, be proactive and ready to prove to landlords why you and your dog are the perfect tenants.
1. First Impressions Count. When looking for a new home, bring your well trained dog with you to meet the landlords. It’s easy to decline dog owners on the phone, but so much harder when they meet a great applicant and lovely dog in person. Be polite no matter how they respond. Many a landlord has been moved to give applicants a try when they act calm, professional and show a willingness to work to address all of their concerns.
2. Obedience train your spayed or neutered dog and create an eye-catching pet resume that includes cute photos and letters of recommendation from your vet, neighbors and trainer to show how well liked your dog is and responsible you are. Describe any arrangements you make for your pet while you’re at work or away on vacation.
Hint! - Teach your dog a trick such as 'Shake!' or 'Roll Over!' to help impress prospective landlords during your first meeting. LHS trainers can help with this!
3. Better than your average dog! Ask LHS how to help your dog earn his Canine Good Citizen title (CGC). This impressive certification helps show landlords that your pet is able to demonstrate the best manners. LHS offers classes to help dogs prepare for this test and be a canine good citizen. See our website for class dates/times.
4. Renter's Insurance. Since liability is every property owner’s biggest concern, buy a renter’s policy that will cover your dog and let prospective landlords know that when you apply. How much? Some insurance companies will provide a $300,000 liability policy for around $300 a year. This is a small price to pay to help your landlord feel good about renting to you.
Atomic Betty's lessons. When Mike and Kim wanted to adopt Atomic Betty, their landlord said, "No way." The company that carried the policy on the home discriminated against several breeds including pit bulls, and they weren't willing to risk losing their insurance. It was a big disappointment. Mike and Kim loved their rental and really didn't want to move, but Betty was worth some creative problem solving. Rather than give up or sneak an unwelcome dog onto the property, they got proactive and wrote a warm and hopeful letter, outlining their love for the house and hope to stay on as longterm tenants as well as their affection for Betty. They boasted about her lovely personality and impressive training background to help the landlord see that she was one special dog. They also politely suggested that the landlord switch to an insurance carrier that wouldn't discriminate against the dog they were in love with, and they provided the name of a local State Farm agent who would work with them. To sweeten the deal, they offered to pay the difference if the new policy was pricier. It worked! The solution was a win-win for everyone: Mike and Kim got a great dog, and their landlords have two very happy and responsible tenants who are even more committed to renewing their lease and taking good care of the home they love. Their example is a reminder that persistence pays, especially when tenants are willing to work in cooperation with property owners to remove any concerns or obstacles.
5. Money Talks. Consider offering an additional pet deposit to cover any damages - or, as we learned with Atomic Betty's example - offer to pay any extra costs to help a landlord buy a new policy from a non-discriminatory company. You may be able to negotiate the amount of the pet deposit and/or extra rent costs for pets if your good pet references can be verified and you are able to demonstrate that your animal is low-risk to the rental property and low-risk for problems to other tenants and their animals. Be sure to list all the verifiable positive aspects of you animal--and the references--on your pet resume. If you are unable to negotiate initially, you may be able to persuade the landlord to revisit the issue when it is time to renew the lease and you and your pet have had a year to demonstrate that you are both good tenants.
6. Type/Size/Weight of Animal.As with pet deposits, with a strong, favorable pet resume and references, you may be able to negotiate in circumstances where your animal does not meet the type/size/weight requirements. The key factors most rental property owners are concerned with are damage to the property and potential problems with other tenants and their animals. If you have a strong pet resume and verifiable references willing to attest to your and your pet's past behavior it is possible to overcome a potential landlord's concerns. You may also be able to get permission for an 80-lb. dog in a place with a "50-lb. weight limit" if you can demonstrate that your dog will not be a risk to property or neighbors. (Though it is more challenging to convince a landlord to take dogs in apartments with a "Cats Only" policy, it is always worth a try if you really like the rental property, can demonstrate through your references and pet resume that you are low-risk for potential problems, and are willing to put down more of a pet deposit than normal.)
7. Negotiating with landlords who do not have a "Pets Welcome" sign out.
Just because landlords may not list their units as "Pet Friendly" does not mean they are all opposed to tenants with animals--if the right people, pets and conditions come along. It is probably a waste of time to approach those landlords who expressly advertise "No Pets Allowed". However, for those who do not state it specifically, there may be room to negotiate.
If you find a place that seems a perfect fit in all ways except the pet issue, consider trying to negotiate for it. After seeing the unit you can begin by expressing your interest in it and letting the landlord know that the unit would be a perfect longterm rental for you. Next, present your own rental resume, encouraging the landlord to contact your references. If discussions proceed about your tenancy you can then present your animal's pet resume, making sure to address any concerns about your pet with regard to the property and neighbors. If the landlord still seems reluctant but open, suggest a pet deposit. Remember, many landlords--especially those who have never rented to tenants with pets--may be unfamiliar (or simply not thinking about) the fact that their assets can be protected with a pet deposit. If s/he still seems reluctant, introduce him to your well behaved dog, express your interest in a long-term tenancy, your willingness to put down a separate pet deposit, and invite him to contact your references.
8. Be an awesome tenant and get a letter of recommendation to prove it. From pit bull owner Vuthy Thorn, "Whenever I move from a place, I draft up a letter of recommendation stating that my dogs have never caused any problems, have been quiet, great tenants, etc., and have had no problems getting my current-soon-to-be-former apartment manager/landlord to sign it. It really does help."
Great advice Vutha! To build a pet friendly community, pet owners of every type of dog really do have to commit to being awesome tenants. Lay rugs down to avoid scratching the hardwoods. Use a dog crate to prevent unexpected damage, like chewed door frames or urine marking while you're away at work. Pick up after your dog. Don’t let him bark non-stop or annoy others. Don’t let him run loose. Let willing neighbors meet your well behaved pet so they can support you in your ownership: Consider inviting them over to a BBQ for some enjoyable ‘get to know’ time. Wear a thick skin and be polite to those that are rude or afraid. Make it your mission to help them realize you’re a thoughtful, responsible dog owner with a well loved pet and your landlord will happily give you a great reference for your next rental.
9. Be resourceful and persistent.Craigslist is a great resource for dog friendly housing ads. You may want to consider placing a ‘Housing Wanted’ ad on Craigslist while you're there.
10. Let science help you! Someone told you your dog is a pit bull, but the truth is, many dogs identified as pit bulls are actually mixed breed dogs who have been incorrectly labeled by veterinarians, trainers and animal shelter personnel. Albert was labeled a pit bull in a local shelter but the landlord of his wanna-be adopter restricted this breed from his building. After a DNA test showed that there was absolutely no terrier in his genetic make-up, he was welcomed into the apartment and officially adopted from the shelter! Wisdom Panel DNA tests are available from LHS at a discounted rate of $65 for a saliva test and $120 for a blood DNA test. From this shelter advocate who arranged the adoption:
“It was very reassuring to both landlord and potential dog owner...I remember the landlord doing a complete 180 once he had a piece of paper in front of him (the DNA results). Having a printed document was much more official."
You might also choose to visit LHS' Well Pet Clinic or your veterinarian and ask them to give their best guess as to your dog's breed mix. Many landlords will accept a document from a veterinarian identifying a potential breed.
11. Patience and PLANNING! Please don't wait until the very last minute to find a home that will accept your pet. The search typically takes several weeks, so give yourself a few weeks to find what you need. If you’re in a pinch, consider boarding your pet at your vet’s office or boarding facility to keep him safe while you hunt for a pet friendly rental. Some businesses will allow a work exchange to help pay kenneling costs.
Develop a Pet Resume:
The Basics: Type of animal (dog/cat/bird/gerbil/etc.)
-Animal's age and weight
-Animal's personality characteristics
-Animal's health history/any health conditions relevant to renting--list veterinarian's name and contact information
-Special training (such as obedience training)/trainer's name and contact information
-Pet-sitters/Boarding facilities who have watched your animal and can attest to animal's demeanor/personality/habits--list names and contact information
-Landlords and neighbors who can attest to your pet's good behavior
-Habits (such as gets walked 3 times a day/sleeps during the day/only stays indoors, etc.)
-Special characteristics (such as does not bark when left alone/has never destroyed property/always uses the litter box, friendly--loves kids/other animals, etc.)
- Photo--optional. If you have the ability, include a photo of your pet on the resume
Note: If you have renter's insurance with pet coverage be sure to mention it on your pet resume.
Sample Pet Resume
FIREPAW, Inc., Copyright, 2003
Spot's Pet Resume
Tenant Applicant's Name: Joe Brown
Current Address: 123 Oak Street, Anywhere, USA 12345
Home Telephone: 555-111-2222 Work Telephone: 555-222-1111
Spot's Special Characteristics
Spot is a 55 lb. neutered male dog. He is a 5 year-old shepherd mix. Spot is very well-behaved and gets along well with children, adults and other dogs. He is housebroken and has never chewed or damaged any household items. Spot is a happy, content animal as verified recently by his veterinarian and an animal communicator (please see references).
Spot is accustomed to loud noises and does not bark unless someone is at the door. Spot loves to take hikes and gets walked two times a day during weekdays and three times a day on weekends. When I need to be away for business trips Spot either has his pet-sitter watch him or he goes to the boarder (please see references below).
Spot had specialized obedience training when he was a puppy and follows commands.
Spot is in good health. He gets regular checkups and is current on rabies vaccines and all shots. Spot takes Frontline to prevent fleas and ticks.
Spot goes to the groomer every other month. He receives the full treatment--including nailtrimming.
Spot never leaves for walks without his "poop bags" and is always picked up after. Spot is registered with the county and the state.
Trainer: Jill Owens /Telephone: (111) 555-0000
Pet Sitter: John Light/ Telephone: (111) 555-2222
Boarder: Dogs Love It Boarding/ Telephone: (111) 555-1111
Veterinarian: Dr. Sordon/Telephone: (111) 555-6666
Groomer: Pampered Pet Grooming/Telephone: (111) 555-7777
Spot's Previous Landlords:
Jack Bean/Telephone: (111) 555-9999; Sue Coral/Telephone: (111) 555-8888
Spot's Previous Neighbors:
Kelly Gold/ Telephone: (111) 555-3333; Bill Malar/Telephone: (111) 555-4444
Registration #: AG5473123
Gather photos of your dog interacting with people and other animals
Get references from your groomer, veterinarian or neighbor.
Convey that you’re a responsible owner.
Ask other dog owners how they got their rentals,” said Diane West, the publisher of New York Tails, a magazine for city pet owners. “That’s the best advice I’ve heard, and it actually works.”
Possible local resources for pet friendly housing include:
HotPads Longmont, CO - http://hotpads.com/CO/Longmont
We encourage you to choose an insurance provider who does not discriminate by breed:
United Services Automobile Association
American Family Insurance