Animals & Money: Recession makes more places pet-friendly

The recession and collapse of the housing market may have one bright spot for animal lovers. As the owners of houses and apartments become more motivated to find renters, more are considering allowing pets.

I talked last week with Mike Torchia, president of Healthy Pet Nation, a Los Angeles-based fitness and training program that advocates people spending more time being active with their pets. Torchia, who is also a celebrity dog trainer, is big on dogs getting allowed into public places. He especially goes to bat for the service dogs of people with disabilities that others can't see, but he wants all well-behaved dogs allowed more places.

Torchia says that he's seen--and encouraged--buildings desperate for tenants switch to allowing pets. That goes for either those who rent apartments or condo or co-op boards, in which owners control the common rules of the building. One new Los Angeles luxury rental building wasn't able to rent all its apartments."They were struggling, in trouble," Torchia says.

So, he suggested they allow pets, but only well-behaved ones. (He also fights against restrictions against certain breeds, preferring standards based on the individual dog and owner's behavior.) He offered to help them serve the niche rental market of people who have big, respectful dogs.

"They now have no units available. They rented 18 units," Torchia says. "Because they changed the rules, now they're out of the red."

Many property owners are hanging onto their real estate, hoping prices will rise again. Meanwhile, they have to rent. All over it's becoming more of a buyer's or renter's market. So it makes sense that owners may prefer allowing pets--with a reasonable deposit and prohibitions against bad behavior--to making less money.

Torchia says several buildings have called him about working out their policies. "It's a rare turn around that because of the bad economy something good has happened."

The change would be excellent news for pets, too. According to the Humane Society of the United States, landlord rules are a big reason pets are surrendered to shelters. If all rentals allowed pets, that would make room for 6.5 million more dogs and cats that wouldn't have to be euthanized, the Humane Society found.
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