Many landlords and property managers have implemented pet breed restrictions. At first pass, this seems logical because some breeds have a higher risk of a pet bite. What about higher-risk pet breeds that have very responsible and loving pet owners? Does the general risk profile change because these higher-risk pet breeds were raised to be well acclimated to their surroundings like being around other people and pets? Additionally, many landlords and property managers simply assume their general liability insurance has specific breed exclusions. This might sometimes be the case, but in many instances, it can be a false premise or a result of not shopping insurance options.
It seems that most people agree, for example, that not all pit bulls are inherently bad. In fact, I know several pit bulls that are loving pets because they were raised by a very responsible and loving pet owner. Rental applicants with high-risk breeds are well aware that they have an up-hill battle to fight as they seek a new home to rent. They are ready to pay above average pet fees/pet rents/pet deposits, if necessary, because their pet is a part of their family. I respectfully submit that I would rather take a pit bull with a very responsible and loving pet owner in lieu of a low-risk pet breed that also has a pet owner that has provided very clear indicators of not being a responsible pet owner or he/she did not favorably acknowledge my management firm’s general pet policies.
To me, the devil is in the data. Getting pet owners on the record about their care of their pet and their understanding of the management firm’s pet policies can not only help you make better decisions but it will also open your eyes and change hearts when considering high-risk breeds. If you maintain pet breed restrictions then you might see an obvious correlation with your reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals for many of these restricted breeds. If a reasonable accommodation request is submitted with the proper documentation, you cannot deny the request based on any breed. Furthermore, you cannot charge any pet fees/pet rents/pet deposits because they are not pets but animals. This scenario alone gives real merit to reconsidering breed restrictions in your pet policy.
There are many insurance companies that do not have pet breed restrictions. The practice of limiting your rental audience just because of your current insurance company’s pet breed restrictions can be easily overcome with some new insurance quotes and a new insurance provider. Once you find an insurance provider that has no breed restrictions whatsoever, then not only will you have insurance that covers general liability for all breeds, but you can also alleviate your team’s efforts to try and self-police breeds. I pose a simple, but poignant, question: Have you ever had an applicant who says their pet is a “lab-mix” breed? If so, then frankly and candidly, you have no idea if it’s 99% part of a restricted breed and 1% Labrador Retriever. You might be in violation of your insurance policy’s breed restrictions despite your very best efforts to try and follow it. Save yourself the headache and find a new insurance provider that will ultimately help expand your rental audience just by considering all pet breeds.
Moving ahead, all you need is a consistent pet screening process with relevant data about the pet and the pet owner to help make better acceptance decisions. The data can even help you charge appropriate pet fees/pet rents/pet deposits commensurate with the associated risk. Responsible pet owners of higher-risk pet breeds will be grateful for the opportunity and they will gladly write a higher check than your average pet fees/pet rents/pet deposits. Not only will you have a way to increase pet revenues but you will also have a new insurance liability policy to cover you if there is a future incident – regardless of that “lab-mix” breed. Woof!