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Pets Large & Small

No pets allowed

Jennifer Vanderau
Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter

(3/2) The place was perfect. It had the quaintest little kitchen and spacious living room. Two bedrooms and a full bath. She could definitely see herself renting it for years and setting up a home.

There was one small problem. No pets allowed.

Give up her babies? Live there without her cat and dog? No way. Back to the classifieds.

The first few times this happened, she became frustrated and angry. Didnít landlords know how attached people can be to animals? Didnít they realize how much animals can help us cope and give us love?

Then she had lunch with a friend, who happened to rent out a few properties to tenants and the story she heard was stomach-turning.

The landlord had rented out one of his units to a group of college students and allowed them to have a dog. Over Thanksgiving break Ė which usually lasts about a week Ė none of the group of roommates wanted to take the dog home with them. Their solution? Throw an entire bag of dog food into the bowl, fill a huge spaghetti pot with water, put a baby gate up at the door to the living room and throw some newspaper onto the carpet.

Can you even imagine the odor when they returned? Not to mention the utter mess. What about the dog, whoíd been left on his own without anyone Ė human or animal?

It cost the landlord thousands of dollars to fix that apartment. And while he was fixing it, the apartment couldnít be rented, which cost him even more money.

Suddenly the "no pets allowed" picture became quite clear to her.

Iíve heard stories like this all the time with other landlords that faced the same problems. Against their better judgment, they took a chance and allowed tenants to own animals. The result? Thousands of dollars in repair bills that took months to fix. Months that they didnít have rental income because the apartment wasnít fit to live in.

I know that there are a lot of frustrated people out there, searching for apartments that allow pets. Many of them are quick to point an accusing finger at the landlords for their "no pets" rules, when in truth, the blame should be placed at the feet of irresponsible pet owners.

Understand that a dog or a cat left unattended, thatís never been trained where to go to the bathroom or never cleaned up after can do some major damage to an apartment. Just because thereís carpet on the floor doesnít mean that urine stains wonít seep through into the floorboards.

Iíve actually been shown through some apartments that reeked so much of cat and dog urine, I couldnít spend three minutes there, let alone an entire year.

I realize that the responsible pet owners who read this wonít be able to conceive of it. People who love their pets and go so far as to treat them like children cannot understand how anyone can pen a dog up in a living room alone for a week.

But it does happen. Trust me, irresponsible pet owners are out there. And some of the stories would shock you.

Now, imagine for a moment, you are a landlord who owns a nice-sized apartment building in downtown that you just spent tens of thousands of dollars remodeling because of dog and cat stains. Would you allow the next tenants to own pets? Would you really be willing to take the chance again on someone who "promised" theyíd be good pet owners?

The bottom line here is that landlords are business people and business people who have been burned badly once generally donít tend to make the same mistake again.

Some landlords have made an effort to meet tenants half way. Some charge a pet deposit up front or ask for a monthly fee to keep an animal. Even that, in my mind, can be a risk, since the cost of repairing an apartment damaged by a pet can be much higher than the monthly fee.

Believe me, I know this is tough for responsible pet owners who live in apartments that donít allow pets or have a monthly fee to keep a pet. I know a lot of people who miss the companionship animals provide because they canít have them or canít afford them Ė and I know a lot of our animals at the shelter donít get adopted because of that.

But, please, donít drop the blame at the landlordís door.

Keep looking Ė pet friendly apartments are out there. Just donít get upset when a landlord tells you no. Thereís usually a very costly reason behind that no.

It would be great to live in a world where everyone cared for animals and we could all share our lives with them. But, until we teach those irresponsible few that you have to clean up cat urine right away and you canít let a dog alone in an apartment for a week, Iím afraid weíll have to save our money for a down payment of a house of our own Ė where we can have as many pets as we want.

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Jennifer Vanderau is the Director of Communications for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter in Chambersburg, Pa., and can be reached at cvasoc@innernet.net. The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at (717) 263-5791 or visit the website www.cvas-pets.org.

Read other articles by Jennifer Vanderau