Housing: THE Number One Pet Friendly Challenge

As I have built out my pet friendly consulting practice the vital importance of pet friendly housing and accommodations has become even more strikingly clear. Housing is a significant component to successful pet friendly programs and an even more important factor to helping shelter animals find loving forever homes. From rentals to condominiums to homeowner’s associations to senior living communities and even to hotels and travel related businesses—everyone can play a role in this.

Here are a few interesting statistics about the power of pet friendly in cities and homes:

  • It can impact rental community stability. A US Conference of Mayor’s survey showed that 74% of mayors agreed that offering pet-friendly amenities can help residential rental communities improve tenant stability, thus reducing turnover.

  • It’s influencing home purchase decisions. A National Association of Realtors study showed that 81% of U.S. households say that animal-related considerations will play a role in deciding on their next living situation.

  • It helps build a sense of community. An international study by University of Western Australia (Australia) in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition showed that dog walkers surveyed said they met people through their pet that resulted in at least one new friendship rather than a mere acquaintance. They are also five times more likely to get to know people in their neighborhoods.

The challenge to pet friendly housing often boils down to size and breed restrictions. When those are in place, people who want and love pets will do whatever it takes so they can have pets. This leads to a multitude of potential downstream impacts such as:

  • People wanting a larger dog but getting a smaller pet to be under some erroneous weight limit. Impact: larger dogs staying in shelters much longer or are even euthanized for time limits.

  • When their loving families must move and cannot find an accommodating housing they often have to give up their furry loved ones. Impact: More pets are surrendered to animal shelters and families are broken up.

  • More people are choosing homes over rentals because they want accommodating spaces for their pets. I hear this more and more frequently especially from Millennials. Impact: This is great for the real estate market but rentals suffer with higher vacancy rates. In the travel space the VRBO and Air BNB models are also growing with traveling pet families choosing these options because of their pet friendliness resulting in higher vacancy rates. It is true—the face of the traveling family now has fur!

The bulleted concerns above are not just observations. They are affecting the pet friendly space in real time.

At the 2019 Global Pet Expo, data experts Euromonitor presented trends in the pet industry pointing out that urbanization and more people moving to cities will influence the type and size of pets. With space limitations, available greenspace and rental restrictions they predict a trend towards an increase in cat ownership over dogs and smaller dogs over large.

In December 2018 Pets+ Magazine reported that “the proportion of dog owners with dogs weighing less than 25 pounds is rising. It’s now at about 50 percent, compared to about 37 percent in 2006, according to a chart published by the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper relied on data from Simmons Research and the APPA National Pet Owners Survey.”

What can be done?

Let’s think about size restrictions

  • A Greyhound can be a couch potato while a Cocker Spaniel could need more space to work off those extra treats she loves.

  • Many HOA and condominium associations have 25 lb. limits yet the units themselves are quite large.

  • Small dogs can be more anxious and bark more than larger dogs.

Breed restrictions can be more of a challenge. These could be based on insurance or management company guidelines. There doesn’t appear to be a standard explanation for the breed restrictions. It may be driven by insurance coverage based on breed lists they have created. It could be the associations or management company’s own ideas of which breeds are aggressive. Many breeds, often the larger, get an inaccurate reputation for being more aggressive when the opposite is true. I lived across the street from a less than 10lb. Chihuahua that would charge anyone anytime it was outside and try to bite at their ankles. 

So, we go back to our point--everyone can play a part in this. Starting with challenging the status quo, asking why existing rules exist and advocating for change. Here are a few ways to start:

  • If it is reasonable based on your property or community, consider removing size restrictions from your rules and/or association docs.

  • Gauge pets on their demeanor not their breed.  Seek out resources that provide pet guidelines and interview questions that can be used to help determine compatibility.

  • Encourage and promote responsible pet ownership. In most cases pet behavior goes back to how they are raised and the owner.

Data from the Pet Leadership Council’s Pet Friendly Housing Initiative shows that there are tangible benefits to communities and properties from welcoming pets, too.

  • Housing that is pet friendly typically commands a rent premium of 20 to 30 percent over units that disallow pets.

  • Tenants in pet friendly rentals stay longer—an average of 46 months, versus 18 months in rentals that prohibit pets. Vacancy rates for pet friendly rentals are significantly lower and receive twice as many applicants as non-pet friendly housing.

  • Additionally, 82% of mayors surveyed by the US Conference of Mayors said that providing pet-friendly amenities can have an overall positive economic impact on the community.

Pet friendly is welcoming pets in our homes, our workplaces, and businesses. It’s recognizing that these four-legged friends are someone’s furry child and best friend. We can all make a difference and everyone can play a part in influencing change for the better in pet friendly housing. Thank you for being part of that change.

We’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on pet friendly housing. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

For interesting ideas and guidelines check out the Better Cities for Pets® housing resources tools, https://www.bettercitiesforpets.com/resourcetag/homes/.

Copyright © 2019 Karen Bartoszek