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Renting with dogs: When no place to go means being homeless with your pets

Camping provides an opportunity to keep your pets while you search for a pet-friendly place to live.
Camping provides an opportunity to keep your pets while you search for a pet-friendly place to live.
Nicole Adams (Examiner)

For those of us with dogs, finding a place to live can be daunting. Depending on where you reside, it can be almost impossible. Unless you are in the unique position to buy a house, or have oodles and oodles of money in the bank, the reality is stark when it comes to renting an apartment or house while you have pets. And if you have to do this in a short period of time, the task of finding a place to live can be larger-than-life.

Speaking from personal experience, living in Mass., renting with two large dogs is not easy. It gets even harder when you have a dog on a breed-restriction list. Though Mass. as a state has banned breed specific legislation, landlords can ban whatever breed they wish. Add in weight or size restriction, and the number of pets you are allowed to have, and finding a place to rent with pets is like looking for a needle in a haystack. And this is all before factoring in what you can afford for rent.

While there are numerous websites out there to help you find pet-friendly apartments or houses for rent, the real work comes when you read the fine print and have to start making phone calls for specifics. You find that “dog friendly” means one dog under 20 pounds, two dogs under 50 pounds, dogs welcome except <enter any number of breeds here>, or any variation that you more than likely fall into, thus limiting you from renting at such an establishment.

When you are lucky enough to find a place to rent that allows all dogs, no matter size, breed or number, the other shoe drops when you see what you would have to pay to be able to live there – not taking in to account the upfront cost of first and last month's rent, security deposit, and any possible pet fees.

So what happens when you have to move suddenly, do not have money saved up or live hand-to-mouth, like many families, and have pets? Unfortunately, a good number of people take their pets to the shelter and simply dump them. Never mind that this is one of the reasons why animal shelters are full and many animals lose their lives – because of human selfishness – but your pet did not ask to be adopted by you. You chose your pet; when you adopted them, you made a promise, signed a contract, and vowed to take care of them for the rest of their lives. How is dumping them at a shelter where they will undoubtedly die a lonely and confused death caring for them?

Many individuals do not realize that a bonded pet will choose love over food and love over shelter. An animal bonded with its family can and will die of loneliness if it is abandoned. Many dire housing situations are temporary; surrendering your pet is permanent.

Reach out. Should you find yourself in such a situation where you are facing homelessness with your pets, reach out to local animal rescues, friends, family, pet food pantries and local emergency organizations. You never know who may be able to help. You might find a foster to temporarily look after your pets while you look for a place to live. Pet food pantries might help with food while you save up to pay the upfront cost of rent. Friends and family may lend a hand if your situation is urgent enough.

Invest in camping equipment and research local campgrounds. It may not be ideal, but it provides you a fairly cheap place to stay and often you will have access to water and electricity. Look into local motels and hotels that allow long-term stays. Just beware that some motels and hotels, and just about all campgrounds do not allow leaving pets unattended. And be prepared to have a tough time finding motels, hotels and campgrounds for the same reason it is tough to find a place to rent with pets.

This Examiner found herself in such a situation. I had 30 days to perform a miracle. We had a very difficult time finding a place to rent that allowed two large dogs and fell within our budget. My two rescue mutts are 70 pounds and 50 pounds. Personally, I consider a large dog to be 100+ pounds but apparently most landlords consider any dog over 50 pounds to be large. We could have afforded many places to rent if we didn't have pets.

And some people thought we should get rid of our dogs in order to find a place. That would be like cutting off my arm because a shirt didn't fit.

After trying a few different avenues with a handful of possibilities that ultimately fell apart, we borrowed a camper from a friend. However, finding a campground that allowed dogs was also not easy, though far easier than finding a place to rent. We are now camping.

Our dogs have not noticed the difference. For them, the only thing that changed was their environment. They still eat the same food, have the same toys, bed, treats and most important of all, the same family.

It has not been easy and was quite the adjustment for the humans, but I made a promise to my pups – always and forever, no matter what. We are family and families stick together. Where we go from here is still undetermined, but we will be together.

Read more:
When town bylaws get in the way of finding a missing pet
Massachusetts Senate passes bill to protect abandoned animals
Too close for comfort: Back away from the dog

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