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Pet Etiquette for Renters
April 24, 2012 - Kari Rose
As animal lovers and pet owners very well know, finding a home, town house, or apartment that welcomes your furry or not so furry friends can seem like an impossible feat. Years ago it was quite common for a landlord to allow small dogs, a cat or two, or certain caged animals but the times they are a changin'. Landlords who once allowed pets in their rental units may have had responsible tenants but more often than not ended up in a position of making unnecessary and costly repairs due to a lack of tenants holding up their end of the bargain. As a pet owner and animal lover myself I can honestly say I understand where these landlords are coming from. I have heard many cringe worthy stories and certainly can relate to how sometimes one bad apple can spoil the bunch. Although they seem like a dying breed, there are still some landlords who will accept pets on their premises. As a reponsible tenant and pet owner, this is where pet etiquette becomes extremely important. Perhaps if more pet owners care for their animals and rental units more landlords may be willing to once again allow pets.
I've noticed that there is one animal that even some pet friendly landlords are extremely hesitant about...dogs. The main reasons for this is barking and urinating or deficating on the floors which results in the landlord having to tear up and replace the carpeting after you move. Please do not assume that if a landlord says they allow dogs that they mean any size, any age or any breed. Some landlords will only allow dogs up to a certain weight while others that allow larger dogs may be unwilling to allow certain breeds on their property. If you have a puppy that is still being potty trained for example, make sure to tell your landlord this. Also make sure to tell them what steps you will be taking to make sure the puppy does not urinate and soil the carpeting. Be responsible and use a crate when you are not home or while you are asleep. You can also use puppy pad training along with outdoor potty training to greatly reduce indoor accidents...or at least confine them to a pad that is easy to clean and does not cause damage to the unit. Another issue landlords tend to have with any dog is the possibility of barking and barking complaints from neighbors. Do not assume that just because a landlord will allow a dog that you should let them bark at every sound. There are ways to remedy inappropriate barking. Although I personally disagree with shock collars as they can be painful, leave marks and lead to resentment...or not even work at all, it is an option. Please use caution if you choose to use this as a training tool. An alternative to the shock collar is a collar that sprays a citrus and water combination when the dog barks. This is not painful for them and is much like using a squirt bottle. Also, dogs don't like the citrus in these sprays. Remember, you have neighbors and even if you do know their schedules, you don't know when they're feeling ill, taking a day of r&r, or possibly napping. It is not fair to assume that because barking does not bother you it does not bother anyone else. Be considerate. Once again, if your dog is a barker inform your potential landlord and tell them how to plan to remedy this. Contrary to popular belief, keeping a landlord informed is most often a good thing. The third thing on most hesitant landlords' lists in regards to allow dogs are feces on the property. Most cities have ordinances that state you must pick up your doggy doo or you will be fined. New Ulm does have this ordinance. Not picking up after your dog is not only smelly and unsanitary but can also be hazardous for children playing near it or to other dogs with the tendencey of viewing other doggy doo as a snack. It is also important regardless of where you live to keep your dog up to date on shots, de-wormer, and heartguard and to have them spayed or nuetered. Some landlords will ask you for a print out to make sure your dog is up to date and altered. If your potential landlord does not ask you for this, it is always a nice gesture to offer it to them. An informed landlord knows they are being shown respect and a respected landlord is more likely to offer you a rental or renew your lease.
Now lets move on to cats. Although it is more common for a potential landlord to allow a cat/s than a dog/s, many have been left with a unit that is unsanitary and has been urinated and deficated on. I have heard of landlords spending thousands of dollars in repairing units where the cat/s sprayed. Please tell your landlord exactly how many cats you have and if you intend to get more make sure you recieve written permission. Some landlords will only allow an animal (dog, cat, or other) if they are a therapy animal. If this is the case you will either have to have your family doctor mail your potential landlord a letter or allow your landlord to fax a form to your doctor. It is extremly important to keep litter boxes clean when you have a cat or cats. If a cat finds a litter box is too full (even if you don't think so) they will find another place to relieve themselves. It is best to clean the litter box every day and sometimes more often if you have multiple cats. Please do not let bags of your cats' waste pile up. If you have a full bag dispose of it properly. This greatly reduces any smell and is far more sanitary then letting it accumulate. The litter you use can also make a big difference in how much odor will be in and around your cats' litter box. Clumping litter can be purchased anywhere and is far more sanitary than litter that does not clump. Litters containing baking soda or odor crystals can also greatly reduce smell. There are also alternative litters on the market such as Feline Pine and Yesterdays News that are flushable and/or organic and biodegradible. I have used Feline Pine and was unable to detect any smell around the litter boxes with the exception of when a cat just finished their 'duty'. Bentonite can be purchased at feed stores and is extremely inexpensive, very effective, strong and almost immediate clumping and has very little dust. Keep in mind that no matter what litter you use, you will need to scoop at least once a day. Since litter can be tracked throughout your home please sweep the immediate area on a fairly regular basis and don't forget to vacuum. As with a dog, make sure your cat/s are current on all shots and are spayed or nuetered. Remember, an altered cat of either sex is far less likely to spray. It is also a myth that only male cats will spray. Perhaps you're not a cat or dog person or are unable to have them due to allergies or the cost of pet care. Fancy yourself more of a reptile person, fish person, or bird person? Maybe you have ferrets or other caged animals. Don't be surprised if a potential landlord isn't overly thrilled about your choice of pet. As with any animal friendly potential landlord, be open and honest and tell them what you have. Explaining why you have a fifty pound snake instead of a hampster may help ease your landlords mind. Let your landlord know how long you have had the pet/s you wish to move in with you and how you take care of them. Some landlords will not allow snakes or only will allow small snakes. Some will only allow an aquarium up to a certain weight. Some will not allow rabbits or ferrets while others will. This is the landlords right but by explaining how you care for them and how often as well as providing information that your pet/s are current on shots, spayed or nuetered, of if applicable, descented you are more likely to have a potential landlord look more closely at your particular situation. As with a dog or a cat, make sure to keep both your pet/s and their cages, tanks, or aquariums clean. Make sure your pet/s are properly feed, bathed, groomed, etc. If you have a large bird let your neighbors know so they don't suddenly wake in the middle of the night horrified after hearing a 'scream'. As with barking dogs, do not assume that your neighbors will not be bothered by a loud bird. Although most bird owners I know keep their birds' wings clipped, there are a few who do not. Not only is clipping your birds' wings making your home much safer for them, it is also preventing potential damage to property that does not belong to you. Make sure that if you have a caged animal they are never let out unattended. When not handling them always keep them in a locked cage, tank, or terrarium. It's not very likely that your neighbor will be happy to find your missing snake in their apartment!
In addition to keeping your pets and home sanitary, clean, and taken care of properly and being open and honest with your potential landlord it is also very important to understand a landlord or neighbors potential concerns. Take the opportunity to educate someone that is unsure about your pet but don't be rude in your approach or forceful in your opinion. Always get a landlords permission to add an additional animal to your household. Never assume that your landlord won't care. An assumption like that can end in legal eviction. Not only is this disrespectful to your landlord but an eviction may put your pets' future in jeopardy. It may also prevent other landlords from renting to you. If your pet does damage the unit you are renting be responsible and make or pay for needed repairs. If you know your carpeting will need to be replaced and your deposit will not cover the cost talk to your landlord to see if you can pay for it all at once or pay so much each month until that cost is covered. Even if you plan to rent from the same landlord for years to come it is important to cover the cost of repairs and have them made as they are needed. Damage to property from an animal should never fall on a landlords shoulders.
Many landlords that once allowed animals will not change their minds but there are more than likely a handful that may reconsider once that have consistantly had responsible, respectful pet owners in their units. Remember to put yourself in your landlords shoes if you expect them to step into yours. There is always a way to live peacfully together.....animal, landlord, and tenant.
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