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Landlords: Give Fido a Chance

VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Community Debate

April 08, 2000

For dog owners, finding rental housing can be very difficult. Many landlords are reluctant to allow dogs, even with an extra security deposit, and there are no laws that protect dog owners from housing discrimination. SAMANTHA BONAR spoke with Steve McNall, the director of the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA, and Doug Delahook, owner of dozens of rental properties in L.A. and Orange counties.

STEVE McNALL

Director, Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA

Part of the screening process during dog adoptions here at the Pasadena Humane Society is that tenants must get landlord approval. We ask to see a copy of the agreement between the landlord and the tenant.

Landlord attitudes toward dogs really vary. Some landlords just absolutely flat out do not want pets, period. Sometimes we're able to talk to the landlord and tell him that we have a pre-screening process to make sure the person will be a responsible pet owner. Sometimes that gives landlords a wider comfort zone--they say they'll take the pet.

Others will set a weight or size limit for the dog. I just had a situation a few weeks ago where an individual adopted a puppy from us and the agreement was the dog would not go over the weight of 35 pounds; the dog ended up being 45-50 pounds and the landlord was trying to make the tenant get rid of the dog after she'd had it for a year and a half.

I don't know what justification landlords use for the weight requirement. It is a bit discriminatory. I've talked to a few landlords about this. They feel that there is a liability with the larger dogs for damage to the property. Poundage has nothing to do with behavior. It's the breed. Some terriers are much smaller dogs but they can be very hyperactive. Particular breeds need to be exercised and run more to keep hyperactivity in check. Large dogs need exercise, too, but don't always require as much.

Fifteen years ago we had a policy where we would not allow the adoption of a large dog into an apartment facility. But since then we have done an about-face because we have seen that animals, no matter what size, in an apartment facility sometimes receive more quality time with their human friend than dogs who are put out in the backyard. We have found that a lot of people who rent who have pets are very dedicated to their pets and will religiously walk them and spend time with them. We've found, too, that just because you have a large yard doesn't mean you're going to spend time with that animal. They might take that animal and just put it out in the backyard and forget about it.

I would like to see housing laws saying a landlord can't discriminate if you have a dog. But on the other hand, we can see where the landlord is coming from. Dogs, unless they're under control, like children can cause damage. So if you have that irresponsible pet owner out there who is allowing his dogs to breed in the living room or that vicious pit bull that's being used as a guard dog inside an apartment complex, there can be problems.

There are a couple of ways to convince a landlord you are a responsible pet owner. Sign up for pet obedience classes. We offer them here. We call it a puppy-training class, but it's really a people-training class, because it teaches the individual how to teach their pet how to socialize. That's what's important. House-breaking and things like that just come naturally. But being sociable, getting along with other animals, children, people in the community, that's what you want your pet to do. Take an obedience course and show proof of that to your landlord. Have your pet spayed or neutered. That's a big one. That shows the landlord that you are not going to be breeding puppies in your backyard. Reference letters from previous landlords also pull a lot of weight.

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