9 min read

More Renters Can Find Homes Without Giving Up Their Pets

Renting a house or an apartment can be a challenge if you have a pet. If you have multiple pets, get ready for plenty of rejection.

Too many home and apartment owners exclude animals, thinking that the animals are going to damage the properties. That mentality shrinks the pool of living spaces for people and their pets. What's worse, for people without many or sometimes any options, especially in underserved communities, it results in relinquishment of the animals to shelters. In terms of nationwide statistics, about 40 percent of pets entering shelters don't come out alive, making this an end-point for them. Our movement needs to tackle this problem, prevent this preventable loss of life, and remove this impediment to forging and maintaining the human-animal bond.

That is why I am so excited to announce today the launch of The HSUS' Pets Are Welcome campaign, designed to transform pet policies in the housing industry to save lives and to allow people and their pets to stay together and do so without some major sacrifice.

The HSUS will work closely with the housing industry and housing providers to update outdated policies and restrictions that hurt animals: for instance, more than half of America's dogs are medium to large mixed breeds, but housing providers and insurance companies fixate on restricting dogs by breed and size or weight. This practice is driven by fear of liability and based on myths about dogs, despite the fact that breed based regulations are rapidly declining around the country. Breed and size restrictions just don't make sense, as a chihuahua or yorkie owner needs to be as responsible as a pit bill or malamute owner.

Our Pets Are Welcome campaign will work to remove these restrictions by educating the housing industry and showing them that there is a huge demand for rental housing among people whose dogs are currently not welcome. To ensure that renters with pets are doing their best, we will also promote responsible behavior, providing problem-solving tips and guidance to renters with pets so that they are aligned with the vast majority of families whose pets are well-behaved, well-mannered, desirable renters.

Our long-term goal is to keep pets in their homes and increase adoptions. Currently, 35 percent of US households rent, and according to industry polls, 72 percent of renters have pets. Millions of pets and their families depend on rental housing. All too often, we've heard of tragic stories like that of Rubin who was suddenly being pressured to give up his dog Red because of breed restrictions, despite having lived with Red in the same home for 11 years with no problems.

As a trillion dollar industry, the multi-family housing sector has the potential to play a tremendously positive role in building a more humane economy. When the industry went "pet-friendly" in the 1990s it was a result of the industry recognizing the increasing number of US households with pets and the value of those pets in people's lives. People were willing to pay extra deposits, fees, and even monthly pet rents. In the aggregate, this amounted to a financial opportunity to housing operators, since their customers wanted pet-related services. The trends have been moving in our direction. We see many people in the industry building on these principles, offering luxury amenities like dog parks, valet walking services, and grooming spas for residents with dogs. They recognize that you can have successful commerce while helping animals and pet owners at the same time.

Still, there are snags. Besides breed and weight restrictions, some other problem policies contain requirements for cats to be declawed. Age restrictions are common, with the ban extending to young puppies and kittens on one end, and senior pets on the other. Limiting the number of pets one may own is another prevalent practice.

We are celebrating the companies showing responsible and responsive policies. Twin Ponds at Nashua, New Hampshire, is a company that welcomes animals of all sizes and breeds, because, in its own words, the company believes it is mentally and physically good for people to have pets. The company has over 300 dogs in about 400 units at any given time and the units are always near full occupancy, with people waiting to move in. They were at full or near-full capacity even during the economic turndown, while neighboring apartment communities struggled.

Roscoe Properties, which offers rental units throughout Texas, Levitan Investment Properties, based in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Gumenick Properties, with communities in the southeast, are other examples of Pets Are Welcome communities.

The 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.

What apartment owner or homeowner would tell a family that they cannot have a child or a grandparent come live with them? They are part of the family, and picking and choosing who can stay should be an unacceptable condition imposed on a renter. The same is true for pets. It's time for the era of excluding pets to end. We are excited to help usher in that era and to normalize the idea that people should be able to keep their entire family together when they move into a new home.