Among the things we encounter all too regularly in our outreach program are folks who are moving because they’ve run afoul of their apartment complex’s pet rules, or who need to move to a new place but can’t, again because of restrictive rules on pets.
There’s an argument to be made for apartments having pet rules and restrictions; wear and tear on apartments from dogs and cats costs those businesses money, and the time it takes to repair those damages can prevent them from renting out empty apartments in a timely fashion, costing them even more money. It’s impossible to dispute this reality.
But there’s a counterargument that goes like this: according to the Humane Society of the United States, 72% of people renting apartments also have pets. That goes beyond being just a majority. In terms of a business model, how much sense does it make to alienate three fourths of your customers? Not much. As private businesses, of course, they can set whatever rules they want within the boundaries of the law. However, at a time when more people are renting apartments than ever before, and the average hourly wage required to rent a two-bedroom apartment is increasing (and increasingly out-of-reach for a lot of hourly workers as hourly wages remain mostly stagnant in comparison), restrictive pet policies place an undue burden on already burdened families who just want to have a pet.
Apart from the financial burden on the individuals looking to rent, it also creates a financial burden on the city, and therefore on you and I. SNKC gets calls every week from people who feel they have to get rid of their pet because they won’t be able to find an affordable place to live otherwise. These are people who are having to give up a member of their family in order to have an apartment. “Moving” and “Landlord not allowing pet” are the two most common reasons given for the relinquishment of a family pet. We do our best to help clients circumvent those issues, or talk to their landlord to see if we can get an exception made, but for every pet owner that comes to us, there are several that end up giving up their pet or pets because they don’t know that there’s anywhere they can turn. That means more animals going to shelters and more animals being abandoned. That costs those organizations (and animal control) money that they could be spending on other situations. These apartment complexes are essentially passing the buck, and the buck is stopping with you and I.
But for the people who are determined to keep their pet, another danger lurks. We’ve all known someone who was in violation of their apartment’s pet rules. They spend their days hoping nobody tells on them, or that their dog doesn’t bark while they’re gone, giving them away to maintenance staff or administration. The fear of losing their pet, their apartment, or both, leads them to keep their animal hidden. This sometimes includes not taking their pet in to get vaccinated, which then leads them to hide the pet even more, because now they’re in danger of getting in trouble with their apartment complex and Animal Control.
The Humane Society of the United States has started a program called Pets Are Welcome (PAW) to help combat these issues. Rental properties given PAW approval have no breed or weight restrictions. The problem, still, is getting property owners on board. As of this writing, Missouri only has four rental properties listed as PAW properties. That’s four places out of thousands across the state that are willing to accept pets as-is, and they’re all in Kansas City. That leaves anyone outside the metro area without even a place to start the search.
The Pets Are Welcome toolkit linked to above has resources for pet owners looking to rent, and ways that we can all change the conversation about this situation, mostly by leveraging social media to create the conversation. They also have a page of tips for how to approach the search for pet-friendly housing, and a page of success stories from property owners about how the program has been beneficial to them. This is key, as there are often only two things that get landlords moving on issues affecting the lives of their tenants, and that’s 1) money, and 2) threat of lack of money. If you’re gonna communicate, communicate in a language that they understand.
And it’s working! Slowly, slowly, rental companies are coming around as the conversation around the topic shifts the apartment pet policy paradigm to something resembling what one would hope they’d find among compassionate and understanding human beings. Here, read what the MC Residential company has to say in their pet policy:
We love pets as much as you do. We know your furry four-legged companion isn’t just a friend, he or she is family. And that’s exactly why we do everything we can to make sure your pet feels as welcome as you are in our community. … So come one, come all. Bring your Great Danes and your Chihuahuas, your Labradors and your Retrievers. Come with your old pups with gray on their muzzle and your funny fuzzy cats. You’re all welcome and we can’t wait to meet you!
It’s such a rare thing to see that I almost don’t believe it. And yet, there it is. And it’s just the beginning, as long as we keep pushing for a better environment for our furry friends.