Reader response to a Los Angeles Times article about Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’ proposed budget for the city’s animal-shelter system indicated that the proposal falls short in the eyes of the letter writers. One writer suggested that mandating that landlords allow pets could be a good way to mitigate shelter overcrowding.
“How many times have you suggested to a friend that they get a cat or dog, only to hear the woeful reply, ‘My landlord says no pets’?” the writer asked. “Every time a landlord just flippantly includes such a provision, it means one more poor child growing up without animal companionship, and one more dog or cat dispatched to the euthanasia room.”
And woe to us adults who can’t thrive without the company of a pet. A mandate might work for Los Angeles’ beleaguered shelters and in Long Beach’s shelter, too, which is thankfully less severe than LA’s. It’s illegal in California to discriminate against renting to people with children, with the exception of 55-and-older communities, so why not put a ban on refusing to rent to people with pets?
The best answer I can come up with is that in California, at least, pets are stuck in a legal limbo that falls between personal property and family members. Animal-welfare bills continue to be signed into law—one provides for care of a divorcing couple’s pets. But until pets are given personhood status, if that ever happens, you can’t require a landlord to take them in unless you have a registered support animal.
Full disclosure: My partner and I are landlords, and we happily rent to people with pets. We’ve had dogs, cats, rabbits, fish and one turtle. My mantra’s always been, “People cause more damage than animals do,” which, of course, is an animal lover’s illusion. In fact, one tenant we had never cleaned their cat’s barf from the carpet when they moved out—that cat was apparently plagued with hairballs of biblical proportions. But the damage deposit covered it, and we were disgusted with the tenant, not the cat.
Some landlords, though, don’t want to deal with additional destruction from chewed door jambs or clawed carpets. Indie landlord Sharon Nomlas’ last tenant had a 14-year-old dog who, she said, needed more potty breaks than he was getting.
“No fault of the dog, but he destroyed the house,” she said. “I won’t even leave my own dog home for an hour. I’m really rethinking letting any animal in this house unless the person works from home because not everyone takes care of their animals or takes care of your property.”
Nomlas is in a fairly unusual situation of owning a small home that she rents out and renting a larger home for herself. Her landlord allows her 7-pound Chihuahua to live there but puts the kibosh on any visiting pets.
“He’s adamant, too,” Nomlas said. “I can’t foster, and I want to foster a small senior dog. I’d sneak a dog in, but as a landlord myself, I respect his views.”
‘Mandate’ rings a discomforting bell
Even for animal lovers, the word “mandate” has an unpleasant, overbearing feel to it.
“I think bans in any direction are problematic,” Realtor Kelly Lopes said. “We—people, businesses—are already so regulated.”
Lopes has the heart of an animal rescuer and the brain of a canny businessperson. She’s the founder of the Wrigley Kittens Facebook page and divides her time between finding perfect homes for both humans and cats. She laid out some reasons that property owners may refuse pets.
“The number one reason is probably that pets do damage,” she said. “Cats might pee or poop out of the box and ruin carpet or flooring. With dogs, there’s an issue of barking and disturbing other residents. And then, if the rental is a condo, the owner might actually be subject to HOA rules, which can prohibit pets and can also have size and number restrictions.” That last one is a big one for us.
Ellie Enrique owns individual rentals and also works in real estate. She, too, is a pet rescuer and a lover of animals. She rents to people with pets but is also uncomfortable with the idea of a mandate.
“There are so many animals who don’t have a home,” she said. “But I think if it were mandatory, a problem I’d see would be taking in pets that are not being trained properly or looked after properly. In that case, are you supposed to do a background check on the dog? How do you know that the dog doesn’t have a bite record?”
Some insurance companies, Enrique said, won’t allow their clients to rent to households with dogs she calls no-no breeds unless they are certified as helper dogs. These breeds include pit bulls, Doberman pinschers and rottweilers. Sadly for the animal and human, individual dogs among those breeds are far from problematic and would pass a background check with flying collars.
“So many rentals do not allow pets—or large pets—so, you know, I’m going into that niche market for these people that don’t have anywhere else to go,” Enrique said. “As far as I’ve seen, all the tenants I’ve ever had with pets take good care of them. They’re usually longer term, and they appreciate the fact that I take the pets.”
Resourcefulness in pet rentals
Individual landlords with only a few properties are sometimes creative with pet rentals. Rita Silva has agreed to waive the pet deposit for pets if they show proof of adoption from a rescue or a shelter. Enrique asks for the animals’ veterinary information on the rental agreement in case there’s an emergency. She also insists that the pets—the dogs, anyway—be part of the interview process.
“I ask people to bring their dogs by so I can tell if they’re not wild and crazy,” she said. “I had one incident when someone said they had a Frenchie, but it turned out to be a really large pit bull. And if you put one cat on the application and come in with two carriers, I’m OK with the cats but not that you lied to me!”
Some commercial landlords aren’t inflexible about allowing pets, either. Brian Shanedling manages pet-friendly buildings for Long Beach Property Management. He said that they allow small dogs and cats but have a monthly pet-rent surcharge of $25.
“We’ve had pet issues with poop cleanup, and that’s a cost we incur,” he said. “We encourage pet owners as long as they’re responsible and clean up, but one bad apple makes it discouraging for a landlord to accept animals.”
Shanedling, an unabashedly doting doggie daddy, said that allowing pets is both a kind thing to do and a sensible business practice.
“You’ll get a bigger pool of renters—and more quality tenants—if you allow them,” he said. “You want to reward the responsible tenants—the pet is their child! We want to encourage people, and they should be able to have them.”
The price tag is often the dividing line
“This obstacle is far more likely to fall before the less affluent renters in, say, Pico Union than the homeowners of Pacific Palisades,” the LA Times letter writer continued. The higher cost of renting to someone with a pet is, of course, more easily absorbed by a financially comfortable household than by a struggling one, and as pointed out, the landlord’s perspective must be considered.
Adding pet rent or an additional deposit could reassure a property owner that the unit or house will be cared for, but it’s also an additional expense for someone struggling to keep both themselves and their pet together. The pet-friendly rentals I saw online seemed to have a bigger price tag in general. At this writing, Craigslist had 3,719 of them within a 10-mile radius of my ZIP code, and only 372 charged less than $2,000 a month. That doesn’t include application fees, pet deposits or added monthly “pet rent” charges.
New legislation (SB 971, Newman) that went into effect Jan. 1 will ensure that some low-income renters can stay with their pets instead of abandoning them when they move or surrendering them to a shelter. The law requires any low-income housing development funded after Jan. 1 to allow pets to move in with the human, with no breed or weight restrictions or pet rent. Potentially vicious or dangerous individual dogs can be turned away, limits on the number of pets will be permitted, and the human companion will be expected to be responsible for keeping their pet leashed or in a carrier when they’re outdoors on the property and cleaning up after them.
But even with the new legislation, people who live in affordable housing units funded before the first of this year, who don’t qualify for affordable housing, or struggle with their budget may find it difficult to keep their pets if housing they can afford doesn’t allow pets. The financial situation could be eased if landlords were to charge a one-time refundable pet deposit—many pet deposits are nonrefundable—and eliminate the pet rent. Some renters find a solution in a doctor’s note that says that their pet is necessary for emotional support (that works both ways), but it’s not as foolproof as people believe.
Lopes favors moving forward and negotiating.
“I think people are reluctant to really dig into a challenging situation and look for solutions,” she said. “I actually have really good luck with it in life, but it’s only because I’m not easily put off when somebody says no. I guess that’s one of the things that makes me a good negotiator. I just keep asking questions, and if I can actually have a one-on-one conversation with somebody, I can often get them to come around and see if there’s a workaround.”
“I’d say when it comes to landlord and renters with pets, it would help matters if both groups were considerate of one another,” said Laura Altman, secretary of Zazzy Cats Kitty Rescue. “Landlords need to be open to renting to responsible pet owners as opposed to just saying no pets off the bat, while pet owners need to be respectful of the properties they are renting and be sure their pets are well cared for and entertained, which will help cut down on damage to their rental units.”
As a renter, Altman would use her own negotiating skills to let them know that she cared about taking care of the property, and they always allowed her pets to come, too, she said. “We need more people willing to have that dialogue.”
Whether you need to talk your way into a rental or have a landlord that’s nuts for animals, these adoptables from Zazzy Cats are irresistible. To adopt one or any of the kitties in foster homes, access this page.
Great furballs of fun!
Three adoption events this Saturday. Do a pup crawl!
District 7 adoption event: Saturday, May 13, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Veterans Park, 101 E. 28th St., Long Beach, adoption fees waived
The office of Councilman Robert Uranga and our shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Services team up to help you find your best friend and discover good ways to help your buddy stay healthy and safe.
Helen Sanders CatPAWS pop-up adoption: Saturday, May 13, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Pet Food Express, 5265 E. Second St., Long Beach, $125 adoption fee includes spay or neuter, vaccines, flea and worm treatments, microchips and counseling—you can adopt two for one!
What! You say “pup crawl” when you can see us kitties? Meet kittens looking for their forever home and, if you have room in your house and heart, take a couple of us with you. Not ready to adopt just yet? CatPAWS is always looking for volunteers, fosters and donors to join the journey to prevent, protect, and provide for homeless cats.
Sparky and the Gang adoption event: Saturday, May 13, 11 a.m.–2 p.m., Pet Supplies Plus, 2806 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, adoption fees apply
Join Sparky and the Gang animal rescue along with A Wish for Animals in a celebration of the third anniversary of Pet Supplies Plus’ presence in Long Beach. Meet Sparky’s adoptables, and enjoy giveaways, free samples, raffles and a shaved-ice truck.
Clean out your castle and bring the stuff that has worn out its welcome—gently used furniture, clothing, household items, crafts you made by knitting cat fur. All of the proceeds from selling them will go directly to Zazzy Cats’ efforts to help homeless kittens and cats and find them good homes from where they’ll spend their entire lives. All donations are tax deductible—they will be accepted May 18, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. at the yard sale address. What’s no longer zazzy to one person will surely be zazzy to another!
Foster for a while—or furever!
If you’ve always wanted a pet but aren’t sure if you’re ready for a lifetime (the animal’s) commitment, or if you’re past the pet-roommate days for any reason, fostering might be a great way to go, especially with one or more of the kittens popping up during kitten season. Every one of the organizations listed below is in desperate need of fosters who’ll social them and help save their little lives. Who knows—maybe one of those lives will change your mind about the not-ready-for-roommate thing!
These nonprofits also regularly feature cat, dog and rabbit adoptions. As of now, adoptions are mainly by appointment. Click on the links for each rescue in case of updates or changes. These organizations operate through donations and grants, and anything you can give would be welcome. Please suggest any Long Beach-area rescues to add to the list. Keep in mind that the rescues are self-supporting and need donations and volunteer help. Most of them cannot accept found or unwanted pets. Contact Long Beach Animal Care Services for options.
German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County
Long Beach Animal Care Services
Long Beach Spay and Neuter Foundation
Pet Food Express Cat Adoption Center
Sparky and the Gang Animal Rescue