After months of looking, you finally found the perfect place to rent. Everything seems tailor-made for you — great location, affordable rent, and they even allow pets! But as you scroll through their ad, one thing jumps at you.
You look over at Fido. Surely he’s allowed to live with you? After all, he’s your best friend, not to mention friendly and well-trained.
Before you panic, here’s a guide that’ll help you understand the ins and outs of breed restrictions, the most commonly restricted breeds, and what to do when your beloved pet ends up on a restrictions list.
For property managers, we’ll discuss why breed restrictions should be removed. Hint: most community members don’t want them there in the first place.
Let’s get started.
Breed restrictions are rules banning certain breeds of dogs, as well as their mixes, from rental properties.
Why only certain dogs and not others?
Well, these rules stem from such breeds being perceived as aggressive, noisy, dangerous, and uncontrollable.
It’s not just safety concerns, though. Some rental properties also have restrictions based on size, weight, age, and exercise requirements. And depending on who’s making the decisions, any breed of dog can be restricted, from Pit Bulls to Chihuahuas.
However, if your beloved Fido is an assistance animal, you’re in luck! Service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) can’t be restricted, even if they’re from a breed that’s banned. To do so goes against the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which states that discrimination against anyone, including people with disabilities, is unlawful when renting or buying a home.
As mentioned above, breeds can be restricted for a variety of reasons, from their temperament to their weight. Different landlords have different reasons, after all.
Here are four of them:
In some states and municipalities, certain dog breeds are banned from ownership, while others have conditions and regulations attached.
For example, in the state of Idaho alone, two municipalities have different laws regarding Pit Bulls. In Ashton, Pit Bulls are banned, whereas, in Cascade, they’re declared ‘dangerous.’ This means they’re not banned outright, yet there are fines or even the possibility of imprisonment for owning one. Similarly, in New York, the city of Larchmont bans Pit Bulls, while the city of Hornell requires mandatory insurance for the same breed.
Below is a map outlining the states where breed-specific legislation (BSL) still exists. If you click through to the source, the map is interactive and allows you to see which municipalities in each state still implement BSL.
Home insurance policies not only cover damage done to the property and all the belongings in it — they also cover injuries that occur on said property. Since they pay the legal expenses associated with those events, they see 'aggressive' pets as a liability and insuring them as a risk.
Some insurance companies, for example, won't cover properties if a breed is 'known to bite' or has a history of causing property damage.
Property owners want to avoid liability damages caused to their property. If that’s the case and it really is the property owner’s decision, you can try to convince them to allow your pet to stay. However, sometimes it’s not the property owner’s decision; they may be following their municipality’s laws or their insurance company’s policy.
Above all, the main reason for breed restrictions is safety. Certain breeds of dogs are perceived as dangerous and there are concerns they may harm other individuals living in or around the rental property. These misconceptions penalize responsible dog owners and are discredited by a new study that shows a dog’s behavior isn’t predicted by breed.
While Pit Bulls are the most restricted breed across the board, via legislation or otherwise, many other dogs perceived as ‘aggressive’ or ‘dangerous’ have also made the list. We’ve rummaged through the world wide web, using sources like DogsBite.org, and these are the most common restricted breeds that came up:
This isn’t an exhaustive list, as property owners can ban a dog for any reason, including being large and looking scary.
So far, we’ve covered the ABCs of breed restrictions, but that doesn’t matter much if your beloved dog comes from a restricted breed. Fido is family, after all, and you can’t bear to leave him behind. Here, then, are seven ways to convince your landlord to let him stay, or if you’re a landlord, seven reasons you should rethink your breed restriction policies:
As with resumes for humans, pet resumes are a great way for dogs to show that they’d be a perfect fit for a property.
A good pet resume should include the following:
Renters can also include a video if they want. Another option is for a renter to offer to do a pet interview with their potential landlord (if the restrictions were put in place by the landlord, not an insurance company or legislation). Both options allow the property owner to see the pet in action.
For landlords who are worried about wayward pets, PetScreening can help with its Digital Pet Profile service. This can be implemented either as a suggestion or a requirement for restricted breeds or all dogs in general.
Just like with humans, references showcase a pet’s wonderful attributes. The best references come from previous landlords, but other good referees include professionals such as vets, trainers, groomers, pet sitters/boarding facilities, and dog walkers. Usually, references will come in the form of letters of recommendation, so be sure to include it or require it with a pet resume!
Property owners have breed restrictions in place because they both want to keep their renters safe and don’t want to be financially responsible for property damage, injuries on their property, or litigation. A renter can try to alleviate those fears by buying pet insurance, so that they’re the one responsible for anything related to their pet.
Of course, some insurance companies have their own breed restrictions list. Always read the fine print to make sure the breed in question is covered by the policy.
Another way to reassure a potential landlord is to pay a pet deposit or pet rent.
Pet rent is a cost added to the monthly rent, while a pet deposit should be part of a renter’s refundable deposit. If you’re a renter paying a pet deposit, get it in writing so you’ll be refunded once your lease is over.
Please note that neither of these is the same as pet insurance — they only cover damage to the renter’s apartment, not the whole building. They also won’t cover anything that happens between a specific renter’s pet and their neighbors.
A dog might look like a restricted breed, even if it’s not. To make sure, get a complete DNA test from a vet or a reputable DNA testing company. It’ll show the dog’s lineage going back several generations and should be included in the pet’s resume.
Certain breeds are restricted because they are considered aggressive, and landlords are afraid they’ll get complaints from other people living in the community. While this is a cause for concern, it’s not the breed that’s the problem — it’s the owner.
If a renter hasn’t already, they should get their dog professionally trained.
Professional dog training schools, like the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Program, provide certificates after program completion. This provides proof that a dog is well-trained and well-behaved. For pups, it’s worth getting their S.T.A.R. Puppy Program too.
Remember, a well-trained dog won’t damage property or bother the neighbors!
Under the FHA, it’s unlawful for a property owner to deny housing to someone with a service animal or an ESA. And since these animals are not considered pets, they don’t have breed restrictions. However, a renter with a service animal or ESA must get their pet registered through the proper channels.
A word of warning, though — to be legally certified as service animals, all service animals must go through the appropriate training. While ESAs aren’t regulated in the same way service animals are, the owner should still make sure they’re well-behaved and won’t cause harm or damage. They may not be pets, but a landlord is allowed to reject an ESA if they can prove it’ll cause them undue hardship.
Another important tip for renters and landlords alike: don’t fall for ESA letter scams!
While it’s tempting to sign up for a service that guarantees a letter in minutes, that isn’t a legitimate way to go about it, and a landlord may evict a renter if they find out.
Owners should get a letter from a qualified physician and/or mental health professional instead. Those are the only people legally allowed to sign off on an ESA letter.
As a renter, it might be easier to get around breed restrictions if you rent with private property owners instead of rental companies. They’re usually less strict with pets.
Show them your pet’s resume, offer to do a pet interview, and provide references just to be on the safe side. Buying pet insurance and offering to pay pent rent are good options too.
In short, yes! There are so many benefits to removing breed restrictions, and according to our research, most people, pet owners and non-pet owners alike, aren’t exactly supportive of breed restrictions in the first place.
As the graph above shows, 42% of overall renters don’t want breed restrictions on pets. 34% are in favor of them, and 24% of renters don’t care either way.
Most pet owners, both current and future, prefer they didn’t exist. And while 43% of renters who don’t intend to get a pet want to keep them in place, they’re edged out by the 29% who want them gone and the 28% who don’t care.
In addition to that, research says most renters aren’t big fans of weight limits on pets either.
Above, 46% of overall renters don’t want a weight limit on pets, whereas 28% do and 26% don’t care either way. Pet owners, current and future, overwhelmingly voted to reject them yet again, and they’re also less popular with folks who don’t intend to get a pet this time around too.
So why should properties remove breed restrictions, anyway?
Well, for one thing, they make owners abandon their pets, which leads to an increase in pet homelessness. In the US alone, there are an estimated 1.3 million dogs living as strays or street dogs, while an estimated 5.4 million cats and dogs live in shelters. That doesn’t exactly bode well for anyone, as pets left to their own devices have a greater risk of carrying diseases, among other issues.
Second of all, breed restrictions perpetuate stereotypes about certain breeds when in reality, all dogs can cause damage and do harm. A genome study published in the journal Science concluded that breed accounts for only 9% of variation of behavior among dogs. That means that most of a dog’s behavior — a massive 91% of it — is shaped by environmental factors and owner interaction.
What renters do want, though, is for irresponsible pet ownership to carry consequences.
The lion’s share (73%) of overall renters agree that irresponsible pet owners should be charged higher pet-related fees, with 15% disagreeing and 11% not caring. While non-owners who don’t intend to get a pet are driving the charge at 81%, both current and future pet owners also vehemently agree that irresponsible owners should pay higher fees. That goes to show that it’s not the breed that’s the problem — it’s the owner.
There are also benefits for property owners in removing breed restrictions. These include a bigger resident pool, longer average stays, increased pet revenue, higher occupancy, and more competitive rates. It really does pay to be pet-inclusive!
While renting with a restricted breed can be challenging, it doesn’t have to be impossible. You have a voice and responsible owners can change breed perceptions.
Pay attention to what breeds are restricted at the properties you’re applying to, send out pet resumes, buy pet insurance, and get Fido professionally trained if he isn’t already. Remember, most pet concerns are the result of bad owners, not pets.
Similarly, most renters agree that breed restrictions aren’t needed at all.
Property owners also have a lot to benefit from removing them, so rather than continuing with something outdated, why not use PetScreening instead? We streamline pet and animal processes, and our platform fits into your existing pipeline.
Schedule a demo with a Pack Member to find out how!