Discriminating Tastes

I have been thinking lately on how perspective changes, depending on where you are in a situation.

I was thinking particularly in the context of finding pet friendly housing, which is actually extraordinarily difficult, even in supposedly pet loving Northern California. My pet owning friends struggle to find homes and often end up in less than ideal situations because they refused to live without their pets, while my landed acquaintances put “no pets” in their advertisements. Meanwhile, families with children can cry “discrimination” if a landlord refuses to rent to them.

So what gives?

I feel like other cities, such as New York, welcome animals. There are 19,468 listings on Craigslist in Manhattan alone which welcome pets, and 2,753 in San Francisco. In Europe, pets are welcome in homes and hotels, albeit with a supplemental deposit, which is entirely reasonable. Some animals, after all, do misbehave, and it seems appropriate to safeguard the investment made in a home. But to ban pets outright seems a little cold to me. I can understand restrictions on farm animals and livestock, especially in regions with municipal codes which specifically prohibit the keeping of livestock.

Landlords say that they don’t want cats because they urinate in the house. Well…no. Poorly trained cats, or cats who are sick, urinate in the house. Most cats prefer to live in clean environments, not surrounded by their own urine. Mine, for example, get extremely irritable if I fail to clean the litterbox within seconds of a deposit. Irresponsible cat guardians have given the rest of us a bad name. Thanks guys!

Other landlords are ok with cats, but do not want dogs, because they are “destructive.” While destructive dogs certainly exist, the bulk of dogs are reasonably well behaved. Owners who cannot manage or handle their dogs might be a problem, but it seems like a bit much to insist that dogs are bound to break things. And small dogs are not less likely to destroy things than big dogs.

So what about birds? Well…no, because birds smell, you see. And they scatter seed. Fish are out, because the tank might break, spilling water all over the floor. And as for reptiles…well, I mean, heat lamps do cause fires.

I think that landlords could really benefit from reevaluating their pet policies. Pet owners tend to be more psychologically stable and calm than non-pet owners, for example. And loving, responsible pet owners will take great care of a home. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for a supplemental pet deposit, or to ask for pet references. Surely, getting extensive references would also help the landlord learn more about the prospective tenant.

Especially in the modern era, where pets are part of the family, it’s a little bit galling that destructive, ill behaved children will not bar someone from renting, but an elderly cat will. Pet owners compound the problem by not coming down hard on people who cannot train their animals. This is why I think that pet references could be an excellent idea, and one which would benefit all parties. Landlords can get an assurance that pets are well behaved, prospective tenants can rent with their pets, and everybody wins. It might also promote animal welfare, especially if landlords ask for a reference from the pet’s regular veterinarian.

Perhaps this is already occurring in some parts of the world, unbeknownst to me. If so, I want to know about it.

[renting with pets]