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Pivoting to pet-friendly: Report by foundation supports rental properties allowing animals

 (Molly Quinn)
(Molly Quinn)

It would have been a breeze for Susan Nelson to go with the status quo after recently purchasing a South Hill apartment building. There’s a no-pets policy at the complex, which is at capacity.

Nelson wouldn’t have to deal with potential damage or complaints about noise if she just followed the pattern set by most landlords. However, Nelson is not like most landlords since her units are now pet-friendly.

The change isn’t surprising since Nelson is an advocate for animal rescue. Nelson is on the Spokane Humane Society Board and cares for a cat and two dogs, one of which requires daily medical attention. However, few landlords who have rental properties that bar pets amend the rules so that furry friends are embraced.

“There is a misplaced prejudice against pet owners,” Spokane Humane Society Executive Director Ed Boks said. “It would be nice if that bias would disappear. If only people would look at the evidence, which is irrefutable that having pets in a rental is actually good for the landlord.”

Nelson, who is the executive director of the Chase Youth Foundation, was already leaning that way since she cares for and about animals, but what ultimately convinced her to open the complex doors to animals is pro-pet data.

According to a recent report issued by the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare, 35% of renters without animals would own a pet if their landlord permitted four-legged inhabitants. Tenants in pet-friendly housing stay an average of 46 months compared to 18 months for tenants in rentals prohibiting pets.

The vacancy rate for pet-friendly housing is lower (10% vs. 14% for no pets allowed), and 25% of applicants inquiring about rentals in non-pet-friendly housing are seeking pet-friendly rentals.

“I had no idea about any of that,” Nelson said. “After reading that, it only made more sense to be pet-friendly. I’m a pet owner and a pet advocate. It would be great if more landlords become more pet-friendly.”

According to the same report by the foundation, 50% of all rentals nationally prohibit pets. Nelson, who resides on the South Hill, believes if landlords knew the facts – for example, the worst damage averaged each year is $430, according to the foundation – they might have a different take.

That sum is less than the typical pet deposit, and knowing that other pet-related issues (noise, tenant conflicts concerning animals or common area upkeep) required less than one hour per year of landlord time, perhaps more rentals would allow pets.

“It’s about educating yourself,” Nelson said. That extends to pet owners who should be realistic about what breeds are best inside the confines of an apartment. “Having cats is one thing,” Nelson said. “But having dogs is another. If an owner doesn’t understand the dog’s needs, there could be a problem. A dog that requires a lot of physical activity is maybe not the best choice for a pet living in an apartment.

“However, a smaller dog who doesn’t require a lot of activity makes more sense. The Spokane Humane Society does a great job educating prospective pet owners and matching up breeds with lifestyles.”

The Spokane Humane Society overall is adept at connecting new pet owners with animals looking for a home. “It’s part of what we do,” Boks said. “We enjoy helping in that manner.” Boks hopes landlords will have a change of heart in terms of policy since animal shelters across the U.S. are experiencing a huge increase in the number of pets surrendered because of the eviction crisis.

“Imagine if all landlords permitted pets,” Boks said. “That would create a demand far greater than the number of pets dying in our shelters, allowing our communities to end pet euthanasia to control pet overpopulation altogether. Landlords are hearing from their own colleagues and professional journals that permitting pets makes good business sense.

“Many landlords may be overlooking a significant low-risk opportunity to increase revenue, tenant pools and market size just by allowing pets. The benefits to the homeless pets who are dying for the lack of a home each year cannot be overstated. Landlords can make a profitable, life-saving choice simply by permitting pets.”

Nelson hopes there are landlords like herself who have rescued animals and have a big heart. “It’s about helping pets who in turn help people,” she said. “I have a miniature dachshund who was abused. He has trust issues. He’s on medication for anxiety and just had nine teeth pulled. I also have a beagle mix. Both dogs are 12, and we have a cat that’s 11. Animals like mine need homes. More doors should be open for pets, especially those who have special needs.”

The Spokane Humane Society views it as a win-win situation. “Pet owners are good if they have a landlord who will allow them to live in a pet-friendly environment, and the landlords will make out since they can charge a pet owner more – and that tenant will most likely stay longer,” Boks said. “It’s a great situation for everybody as long as landlords see the light.”

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