It is estimated that approximately 8 million animals end up in shelters each year with a surge in owners abandoning their pets due to an inability to find pet friendly housing. Nationwide statistics show that about 40 percent of those pets entering the shelters don’t come out alive.
Recently CNN Money reported that the San Francisco animal welfare nonprofit, SF SPCA, started tracking the numbers after staff noticed that housing issues were becoming an increasingly common problem.
It’s time for the housing industry and housing providers to update outdated policies and restrictions imposed on pet owners.
Outdated pet friendly housing laws
Why are rental laws outdated when it comes to pet friendly housing?
KC Theisen, Director of Pet Care Issues, of The Humane Society of the United States explains, “When apartments first started to allow pets in the 1990’s, national pet ownership was much lower, and it was more common for people to have cats or small dogs in apartments. In the years since, and especially in the current renting market we’re seeing huge increases not only in percentage of renters with pets (72%, according to an Apts.com survey in 2014) but also in the types and sizes of pet families: people own larger dogs, or two cats and a dog, or three cats, demographics that properties are struggling to approve. When our Pets Are Welcome campaign staff talks to executives with large management companies, they are often surprised to notice they haven’t reviewed their pet policies in 30 years”.
It’s about much more than “amenities” like dog wash stations and yappy hours. Theisen tells Millennial, it’s really about asking the questions, “Does this property welcome dogs and cats with an open policy that monitors individual pets for inappropriate behavior and owner violations?”
He encourages pet owners to ask themselves, What if I fall in love with a big mixed breed dog at the shelter, or do they judge pets by their size, class, or number? And why would I live there if they judge unfairly?
Pet owners are good for the local economy
Key findings from the new largest-ever apartment rental survey highlight what consumers’ want. According to the National Multifamily Housing Council, pet owners will spend an estimated $60 billion on their pets this year. Renters, who are pet owners, are a good percentage of this spending population.
Renters spend lots of money on their beloved furry friends. They buy treats, toys and even stylish outfits. They also celebrate their birthdays; and include them in wedding ceremonies, family portraits and holiday cards.
Changing demographics demand a fresh look at our nation’s housing policy. Eighty million Millennials are entering the housing market. Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Statistics (JCHS) estimates that Millennials will create 24 million new households between 2015 and 2025. Therefore, Millennials and their pets are set to be a driving force in the apartment industry. Housing is strongly controlled by the market, which means renters ultimately have the power to pressure policies to change.
Campaign to change rental laws
President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, was proud to announce the launch of the Pets Are Welcome campaign. This campaign was designed to transform pet policies in the housing industry. These changes can save lives and allow people and their pets to stay together without some major sacrifice.
The Humane Society of the United States introduced the pet friendly housing initiative to keep more animals in homes and out of shelters. Wayne Pacelle highlighted the need to change rental laws because pets are flowing into shelters that have loving families, who want their pets, but are being separated because of a conflict related to housing.
For the apartment industry, these findings have implications for nearly all aspects of the business, from how they build and manage properties. It also affects how they market their properties and communicate with residents.
In his blog, Pacelle states, “HSUS is also working with industry leaders like the National Apartment Association, pairing our expertise on pet behavior and animal management with their industry knowledge, to be sure property owners and managers get advice and guidance they can trust.”
Already many apartment firms are responding and marketing with the modern pet-renter in mind. Kenny Lamberti, director of strategic initiatives for this program, points out that “Pet-friendly” is the term commonly used to describe pet policies in multi-family housing. However, “pet-friendly” needs to be pet-friendlIER. What is typically promoted, as “pet-friendly”, includes a full list of restrictions on weight, breed, or number of pets in a household.
Mr. Lamberti said Pets Are Welcome is raising the bar to a new standard for what renters with pets should expect. He believes, “We are an America of renters, and an America of pet lovers”. He also noted, “The rental housing industry needs to catch up with trends in pet keeping and do away with arbitrary restrictions on dogs and cats. No one should have to choose between their home or their pet”.
The Humane Society understands the kind of challenges that can occur when searching for housing that welcomes pets or when living with pets in rental housing. There is no data to support weight or breed restrictions for dogs in rental housing. Large dogs can live perfectly well in apartment homes and renters with pets do no greater damage to rental units than any other group of renters.
Help keep pet owners and pets together
Pets are part of the family, and picking and choosing who can stay should be an unacceptable condition imposed on a renter. People should be able to keep their entire family together when they move into a new home.
So what steps can we take to ensure a smooth transition when pet owners are faced with searching for a rental property? KC Theisen shares some tips on how you can reduce the risks associated with pet-friendly rentals.
- Think about getting your pet accepted into an apartment like finding them a job; you need to make your pet the best candidate possible for that apartment.
- Create a pet resume that shows off how much you love your pets and how well cared-for they are. For example, landlords want to know that their residents are low-risk, so have a current license, vaccination and spay/neuter records handy. Being prepared to show why you and your pets can be good tenants can sway a manager’s opinion about leasing to you.
- Think about getting references, especially from previous landlords and veterinarians, stating that your pets did no damage, are well mannered and healthy.
- Finally, being an amazing family whose pets are well-behaved will help landlords view pet owners as desirable renters.
Theisen remarks, “We want to keep pets and their people together and thriving. Our approach is to tackle the underlying problems and old-fashioned myths that plague pets in rental housing. Insurance issues are a big problem, so we’re talking to the insurance industry and asking them to update their practices and data. Where companies or landlords have restrictions about breed, size, or weight of pets, we’re working with them to understand that managing pets individually is safer, more profitable, and results in happier, longer-term residents”.
HSUS is also committed to promote responsible behavior by providing problem-solving tips and guidance to renters with pets. Information and resources can be found at www.humanesociety.org/petsarewelcome. Anyone can get information about laws, rules, and recommendations to make renting a success. Together we can all contribute and make a difference.