Want a pet? Buy a home
ORLANDO, Fla. March 4, 2016 Most Monday mornings at Orange County Animal Services, staffers find a line of people waiting to surrender their pets to the shelter.
The No. 1 reason?
"They're moving, and their new landlord doesn't allow pets," agency spokeswoman Carolina Devine said.
For a region that lures a continuous wave of newcomers, many of them renters, Central Florida is apparently not so welcoming to their pets. Only 4 percent of properties in the greater Orlando area said they allowed their tenants to have dogs and cats, according to a recent survey by the national online rental-listing company Abodo.com.
And while the figure is skewed toward large apartment complexes, especially those within commuting distance of college campuses, the company noted that the same metrics found that Miami had a 22 percent pet acceptance rate and Tampa had 19 percent.
"When we talk to property managers, a lot of the reasons we hear are the smell, scratches on wood floors, health hazards to young children, noise and the chance that a pet can escape," said Abodo.com spokesman Sam Radbil. "Keep in mind, too, that often, even when a property does allow pets, there is a limit" both on how many pets you can have and how much each can weigh.
Apartment vacancy rates often factor into how willing a landlord is to welcome pets, Radbil said, and so do turnover rates. Orlando has a low 3.8 percent vacancy rate and relatively high turnover, neither of which bodes well for Fido and Fluffy.
Margaux Pagan, who moved back to Orlando last summer after eight years in Chicago, found that out the hard way.
"I had three animals, and that closed a lot of doors for me in trying to find housing," said Pagan, an executive at the Center for Independent Living in Winter Park. "All of them are small two cats and one 18-pound dog but it was still really difficult."
She wound up renting a house in an Oviedo suburb that allowed her four-footed roommates, though her dream of raising pygmy goats will have to wait until she's a homeowner, she says.
Property insurance trends also contribute to the no-pets edict. A growing number of policies blacklist certain breeds of dogs deemed aggressive a label that can vary from one year to the next. That means apartment complexes that otherwise allow dogs often ban those breeds.
"We've gotten calls from people who want us to keep their pit bull until they can find a new place that allows them," said Sherri Cappabianca, co-owner of Rocky's Retreat in Orlando, which offers boarding. Some call it "breed discrimination."
An upscale apartment complex near the University of Central Florida, for instance, advertises a long list of amenities, including 24-hour fitness center, big-screen home theater, sand volleyball courts, free Wi-Fi poolside and being "pet-friendly."
Well ... unless you have an Akita, Alaskan malamute, boxer, chow, Doberman pinscher, German shepherd, Great Dane, pit bull, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Siberian husky, bull terrier or wolf hybrid.
All are on the "aggressive" blacklist.
"One of the apartment complexes that just invited us to do a pet-adoption event on their property wrote that they were 'super pet-friendly,'" said Diane Summers of Orange County Animal Services. "They just didn't allow certain breeds and then they named all these dogs including Australian shepherds and Dalmatians. I mean, Australian shepherds? Really?"
Shelter staffers declined. By the time they eliminated all the "banned" breeds, they had only a handful of small dogs. And those tend to be adopted from the shelter so quickly there's no need to do special adoption events.
Because nearly 40 percent of America households have a dog, Gail Moncla, president of Rental Home Management Services in Central Florida, said she encourages property owners to allow at least smaller ones. Otherwise, she said, they're severely limiting the potential pool of tenants. And she finds that renters with larger dogs are often willing to pay sizable and refundable pet deposits.
"I just had an owner who didn't want anything over 25 pounds, and we got an excellent application from someone with a Great Dane who said, 'How much money will it take for you to accept our extremely gentle, 5-year-old dog that happens to weigh 100 pounds?'"
The answer: $1,000.
So far, Moncla said, everyone is living happily ever after with the arrangement.