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Pet owners struggle to find rental housing

Recession, foreclosure crisis have led to sharp rise in surrendered animals, Placer SPCA says
By: Sena Christian gold country news service
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During their rental housing search, Tasha Moore and boyfriend Aaron Lockhart were determined to all stick together — and that included two large dogs. The couple spent several months trolling Craigslist and other rental websites daily for a house. They didn’t want an apartment because they needed a big yard for their pets. But they encountered a problem: Landlords often don’t want to rent to a tenant with dogs. The economic recession and foreclosure crisis have led to a sharp rise in surrendered pets, Placer SPCA CEO Leilani Vierra said. Some pet owners can’t afford to continue caring for their animals and many homeowners must abandon their pets as they move into rental units that don’t allow furry friends. “When people are losing their homes and transitioning to rental environments and if they have pets, we know this can be a difficult transition,” Vierra said. The Roseville-based Placer SPCA has received more surrendered pets this year than last, especially dogs. Through August 2010, the nonprofit organization received 863 dogs (both stray dogs and those surrendered). During the same timeframe this year, 975 dogs have been left. Demystifying myths Placer SPCA works to keep people and their pets together. To do that, the organization launched the SOS Program in 2009 to provide one-time financial assistance of up to $500 to help Placer County residents cover pet deposits for rental units or pay for temporary boarding during a move. Pets must be spayed or neutered. In the past two years, 83 families have sought assistance (the program also goes toward the cost of immediate medical needs). Moore and Lockhart weren’t aware of the SOS Program during their housing search, which ended with a home in downtown Roseville. Moore said most landlords she spoke with were unwilling to accept their application or meet her two dogs to see their good behavior. “I feel that there are many loving and extremely responsible pet owners that are being penalized,” Moore said. She has a 2-year-old Goldendoodle — poodle and golden retriever mix — named Morris an Old English Sheepdog named Milli, who is 3. Moore and Lockhart put down a $2,500 pet and security deposit, which didn’t include the first month’s rent for the two-bedroom house. “That being said, we are very, very thankful for the landlord,” Moore said. “It was a blessing.” Vierra wants to demystify the myths of renting to tenants with pets. For instance, some landlords accept small dogs and prohibit large dogs. But big dogs are often couch potatoes. Other property managers allow only one pet. But dogs are social animals and when left alone they present more of a challenge, Vierra said. With a companion, they are less bored and potentially destructive. Some landlords mistakenly require that cats be de-clawed. But this painful practice can lead to chronic pain and depression, which may cause behavioral problems, according to Placer SPCA. “I can see a property manager looking at that situation from afar and saying ‘Oh my gosh, there’s no way,’” Vierra said. “We want them to see how reliable and long-term a pet owner can be. They’re likely, when they find a place, to stay for a longer period of time … because they don’t have a lot of other choices.” The Placer SPCA website shows a list of pet-friendly apartment complexes in the county. There are about 40 in Roseville. Some only accept cats, some allow dogs under 25 pounds and a few don’t require a pet deposit. Parks prohibit animals Moore is happy with the house she’s now renting. But to add insult to injury, on a recent afternoon she took her dogs for a walk to nearby Weber Park only to find that park prohibits animals. Roseville has three dog parks: Bear Dog Park on Pleasant Grove Boulevard, Marco Dog Park on Sierra Gardens Drive and 1.5-acres of Hughes Park designated for dogs. Plus, there is an off-leash dog run at Saugstad Park. Leashed-dogs are allowed on the city’s designated multi-use paths, including bike and open space trails. Dogs are not allowed in most parks primarily because of cleanliness and safety concerns. “We have an obligation to provide a safe and clean place to play and allowing dogs in parks without restriction can compete with that priority,” said Dominick Casey, director of Roseville’s Parks, Recreation and Libraries Department. He said the city recognizes the benefits that come from people socializing and exercising with their dogs. “This is why we build and maintain off-leash dog parks within our community,” Casey said. “We will continue to seek ways to meet the needs of Roseville residents and building and maintaining comprehensive dog parks will continue to be a priority.” Moore said overall she would like to see Roseville become more pet-friendly, with both landlords and the city adopting policies and practices that encourage pet ownership. “It would just be so nice to see dogs being a bigger part of our community because Roseville is such a wholesome, down-to-earth (place),” Moore said. Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT. ----------- Pet-friendly housing Tips for landlords: • Require pets be spayed or neutered • Charge a reasonable deposit • Set clear expectations • Meet the pets • Ask if the pet has completed training • Use Placer SPCA to advertise property Tips for tenants: • Prepare a file with proof of spay/neuter, vaccinations, vet visits, obedience training • Provide written references from former landlord, neighbors, veterinarian • Always clean up after your pet • Provide pet with proper exercise • Regularly trim your pet’s nails • Keep your pet well groomed For a complete list of tips, visit www.placerspca.org/housing.htm