Today's post isn't about pound dogs per se. It's about living with dogs or, more specifically, trying to find a place to live while being a dog owner.

One of the most frequent reasons people give for surrendering a dog is that they are moving and the new place doesn't allow dogs (so maybe this is about pound dogs after all). The obvious - and only - correct answer to that situation is: so don't move there. However, finding a rental which allows dogs can be tricky. I know because I'm now in that position.

Long story short: I've sold my house and am now looking for a rental space in the city. This is a decision which is part of a larger "plan" to eventually build a place outside of the city while having a smaller place in town. "Plan" is in quotes because it's not really a plan, more an idea. One day, I'd like to have a country place where people and their critters can stretch their legs a bit. Right now, I'd just like to find a city place where I can plunk down my bed and the landlord doesn't mind dogs.

Those pet friendly accommodations are out there. With hundreds of thousands of dog and cat owners in Toronto and many, if not most, of them living in rental units, I know those accommodations are out there. It's just that there's no easy way of finding them and I imagine that's frustrating for a whole lot of pet owners. On View It and MLS listings, two of the most popular online sites for finding rental units as far as I know, there is no way to filter for pet friendly rentals. That means most of the time I'm clicking through all the descriptive info only to find at the end "NO PETS".

Now I know it's illegal to discriminate against pet owners in Ontario when it comes to rental accommodations but I also know what's going to happen as soon as the pet issue is brought up, legal or not: rejection. Also, I don't really want to start off on the wrong foot with a landlord even if I thoroughly disagree with the no pet policy. It's their property after all and they want to preserve it as they see fit but I don't think discriminating against pet owners really gives them any advantage. The goal of a landlord should be to appeal to the widest market in order to get the best tenant possible regardless of pet ownership.

In my own limited experience as a landlord (I had housemates in my house for a few years), the best tenants were always the ones responsible enough to own and take care of their pets. The not so great tenants were the ones who were petless. Those ones had few, if any, real responsibilities in life and that extended to their actions as tenants.

So far, after scouring the listings, I've got a few leads - as in less than five.

Perhaps I'm too picky. I haven't rented in years so maybe I'm being unrealistic with my wish list:

1. South of Bloor somewhere between High Park and the Beaches
Or, if not in that area, then close to the subway or GO train
Or, if not in that area and also not close to the subway or GO, then some irresistibly appealing characteristic about the place like a waterfall with friendly, talking polar bears swimming in it or an alien launch pad/ice cream mountain or something along those lines because who could possibly pass up on something like that even though the commute to work might be hellacious.

2. A grassy, enclosed yard. If I didn't want this, I could just live in a condo.

3. Parking, preferably covered, for my other pet, the motorcycle.

4. On site laundry. If I had to drag my laundry to a laundramat every week I'd be very tempted to just wear disposable clothing like those white, paper/plastic jumpsuits they all wear in high tech facilities. Another good thing with the disposable jumpsuits would be that I wouldn't have to pre-plan the night before what I'm going to wear the next day (in the mornings I am bleary eyed and stupid, that's why). Hmm, maybe I'll just go ahead and do that regardless of on site laundry or not.

5. Two bedrooms or one bedroom plus storage because after living in a house for over ten years, I've got some stuff.

6. Pets allowed, of course.

The stumbling block, way more often than not, is the pets allowed part.

The best solution I've come across for the pet paranoid landlords who still want to keep their options open is to charge an extra monthly "pet deposit", say $50, which is reimbursed at the end of every year if there's been no pet inflicted destruction on the property. This is probably illegal as well but it's better than an outright no pets policy.

So, anyway, I'm curious as to what your personal experiences have been with this stuff, as landlords seeking tenants or tenants seeking accommodations. Were pets a major issue in your search? Did you have any strategies for searching for pet friendly accommodations? Did having a pet affect the choice of tenant/accommodation? Did you dump your pet at TAS because that was the only way you could get into that newly renovated unit with the steam sauna, five piece Bosch kitchen set and refinished barnwood floors? - kidding (but if you did do that, I don't want to know. Seriously). Any other pet related rental experiences, however, I'd love to read about and maybe I can pick up a few pointers.



38 Comments to “Pet Friendly Accommodations”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think people who allow pets are more likely to advertise in some "alternative" places like Now or the other small papers. Also, I'm pretty sure Craigslist allows you to filter ads for places that allow pets.

  2. Lisan says:

    YES! This was a major issue for me (and continues to be one)! 95% of all listings said "NO PETS," which I know is illegal, but I felt uncomfortable with the option of not telling the landlord and moving in with pets anyway. I probably ended up seeing three apartments in four months (the ones that did not specify "no pets") and had no success with any of them. I decided then that we would restrict our search to asking on Facebook & Twitter if anyone knew of someone who was renting. So now, basically, I'm relying on my social network rather than trying my luck with strangers. Good luck!

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is something that has bothered me for years - especially when I was living in the city. Of course, I'm with you - if pets are not allowed, I'm not going to lie about it, I'm just not going to live there.

    The way I got around it recently was to invite my prospective landlord to my home to see how I lived. It was clean, did not stink of animals and had no damage. Now, I live in a small town now, so that sort of thing works. Harder in the city. I have also asked my last two landlords for letters of reference saying that I was a good pet owning tenant. That helps.

    I 100% agree that pet people are more responsible and will likely spend more time at home than someone without and therefore will likely take more pride in their living space.

    With all of the websites dedicated to finding hotels that are dog friendly, I am surprised that nobody has started anything up for pet friendly rentals.

    All of that said, I would live in a bus shelter or large bush with my pets before I ever surrendered a single one because I couldn't find a place. I just look at it as the extra work I need to do to keep my FAMILY together :)

  4. Anon 2 says:

    While in Toronto, I only lived in pet friendly condos (one that had a "pet deposit" and one that didn't). Both were very close to large parks and walking trails, so it worked out well. One thing that tended to make hesitant landlords more receptive to the idea of a pet, though, was providing proof of training (certificates, rally O awards etc) and having references from previous landlords who vouched for my dog's good behaviour. Some landlords also felt much more comfortable after meeting the dog in person.

    Good luck!

  5. Anonymous says:

    My boyfriend, dog, and I are in the same boat right now, and I've had the very same conversation with my boyfriend about not mentioning our dog to the new prosepective landlord, and then letting them find out later - not condusive to starting a good/ongoing relationship. He doesn't want to live in a highrise apartment building (we currently do, but he finds it a hassel always going up and down to get outside), but those seem to be the best bet for allowing dogs, plus amenities like laundry, parking, and storage lockers available. We've looked at 4 apartments in the last 3 weeks (were supposed to see a 5th, but one landlord told me not to bother comming and hung up as soon as I mentioned our dog on the phone). One of the apartments welcomed dogs, as the owner who lived upstairs had a dog of his own (the apartment itself was an awful basement). Two others were ok with dogs but the rent was a higher than we wanted to pay, and the last one I had to convince our dog was very well mannered (but was another awful apartment I would not want to live in). Despite these challenges, getting rid of our dog isn't even a question. It would be like moving to a place that dosen't allow kids, and then getting rid of your kids so you could take a nice apartment. Your comment about pet owners being responsible, is very true, and I never thought of it like that. Thanks for sharing this, and don't give up!

  6. Kate says:

    Kijiji has great screening and filter tools. Also try 'padmapper.com' (which also exists as an app). I'm really impressed by this one. Good luck. I'm afraid to get a second dog because I can imagine the pool will grow even smaller.

  7. deva says:

    The HSUS used to have a website with pet-friendly housing by state. I see there are a couple of similar things for Canada - search engine does not appear to be the greatest:
    http://www.cityleases.com/spider/leareacommonsearch.asp?store_criteria=quickindex&state=canada&city=ontario&areaname=&areaids=All%20Areas&apt_share=&l_term=lt&pricemax=9000+

    I wonder if the OSPCA might have a listing?

  8. Fred says:

    Craigslist and Kijiji - duh - of course. I totally forgot about those. I'll definitely start looking through their listings. Thanks.

  9. CJ says:

    I have been staying at home purely for this reason - plus I don't have the budget to rent a house with a yard at the moment (would go insane with a herding breed in an apartment, at least with min). Have you tried reaching out to When Hounds Fly? I believe the head trainer is in a condo as well, not sure if it's a rental but he might have some ideas for Toronto :).

  10. Anonymous says:

    Whenever I move I ask my current landlord for a letter of reference regarding my dog. I have them include that my dog is well mannered and friendly but also that there has never been any noise or damage because of him. I have a collection of them now and it's been very helpful when finding a new place.

  11. Ironically, we faced exactly that problem when we were returning to Ottawa from Asia, 12 years ago, with one senior cat. The difficulty of finding a rental that would 'allow' one senior cat was such that we bought our own house!

    All we can do is wish you the best of luck.

  12. Kaylen says:

    I met my tenant at the dog park. We each have a dog and we alternate walking both of them, so it works out great.

    Regarding laundry, if you can't find in-suite laundry you might consider buying a portable washer and air drying your laundry. The only downside I've found to air drying is it doesn't get pet fur out as well as machine drying, but that's a pretty minor downside.

    Good luck!

  13. Anonymous says:

    It's a tough one - I live in the Bathurst/St. Clair area which has lots of rental and is very pet friendly (the area is becoming as filled with dogs as High Park or the Beach). Unfortunately, real shortage of 2 bedrooms and places with yards for rent. One of the area landlords says she prefers to rent to people with pets for exactly the reasons you stated.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I have been looking for months and I mean months on all the above rental sites too and am in the same predicament.Currently we live in a high rise which is fine but the rent is getting steep so I'm looking around. We do have many problems with the elevators being down for long period of time so I thought a duplex or part of a house would be the solution . 99% of the ads say "no pets" The odd one will say cats-okay. I even saw an ad listing ,no dogs. no smoking and would prefer non-meat eaters as tenants. OMG. I have also noticed several high rises are now saying no pets. Even though its against the law they get away with this discrimination. I don't know what the answer is but it's very frustrating to be punished for owning a pet. Good luck in your search.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I did this same thing 2 years ago. My wish list was long and the only factor that I had to give up (for now) was living south of Bloor. I was also on a tight budget but I found an amazing house with garage,enclosed yard,onsight laundry and 3 other humans who love animals as much as I do. I'm still in the city, just a little north of Bloor where many of the rentals are cheaper and you get more for your bucks. One day when the lotto gods call my numbers I will move back down to where the cool people live but that country cabin by the lake idea is looking really nice these days. btw- it took me 5 weeks to find my current place...don't give up.

  16. GoLightly says:

    Okay, the trouble with pets. Hopefully all your other readers are like me, and blanche at the sound of my dog barking, when I'm in the city, in a sibling's back yard. I hate to hear dogs barking at night. Who are these people? Keep your dog quiet, others are not necessarily happy to hear your dog's alive.

    I do NOT want to disturb others folks with my animals. That's really hard to do, for some dogs and their owners. Okay, maybe I should say a LOT of dogs and their owners. (Myself included.) Often places will allow a cat, if you can sneak him/her in, and it's a quiet feline, and you are an extremely model tenant otherwise. My sibling is still at his no-pet rental, because the LL realized she had a good tenant, even if he did have three cats at the time.
    I believe your dogs are a tad on the more noticeable side, size-wise, so it's harder to keep them invisible. A quiet pet and tenant? The best, for a landlord.
    WE ARE GREAT TENANTS!!
    Landlords do forget, responsible pet owners pay their bills, and have a steady enough way of working to always, always pay the rent.
    They have mouths to feed.

    Many LL's just don't want the aggro. Sadly, irresponsible behaviour seems to taint the whole bucket of pet owners.

    Good luck!

  17. The Lady says:

    Wow, I live in the states so it is done different. Landlords can decide if they want to allow pets or not and even do breed limits. Pet deposits are standard on top of any security deposits (or first/last months rent). And at least where I have lived it can be super expensive. My last apartment was 500 for two dogs-250 non refundable. Where I live now it is 150 per dog non refundable (which is pretty cheap for where I live actually).

  18. You may have to lower your expectations somewhat in terms of geography.

    Something I've done is to walk around preferred areas and look for "For Rent" signs. Take your cellphone with you so you can call any listed number and ask for the particulars.

  19. My building in the Beaches(3017 Queen St E) ticks all your boxes, minus the enclosed grassy yard, BUT it's right next to the water filtration plant, so you get a huge grassy field that is dog central and 3 minutes walk from the apartment is a leash free beach. Two bedrooms + parking + utilities come in at $1200.

  20. Anonymous says:

    If I were in that kind of bind, I would go in and meet the landlord and charm the pants off them and then bring up the Pets! Like everyone else has already said, bring in the full arsenal - reference letters, certificates, etc, tell them pet owners are generally more responsible, there's no damage to your house, they're well-trained, blah blah. Good luck!

  21. Fred says:

    Thanks for all your suggestions/stories. I will study them carefully and hopefully become an apartment hunting master by the time I am done.

    Social Mange, good idea. I'm going to do that tomorrow.

    Rachel and Kurtis, any vacancies in your building?

    The Lady, don't give the landlords up here any ideas.

  22. Mklwr says:

    When I was looking for an apartment when I moved to Canada with my cat, the condos were fine with me having a cat, but the lease still said "no pets allowed" (it also said "no satellite dishes" and "no using the balcony as storage", but everybody did that, too.)
    And everybody in the building had pets. Cats and dogs of all sizes. I have no idea why they bothered putting it in the lease!

    If you are renting a house, it's trickier, since you are mostly renting from individuals. I think the advice of inviting the potential landlord to see your house and meet the dogs before they make a decision will probably work.

    Since you own your current home, getting references from previous landlords doesn't apply in your case, which is unfortunate.

    I'd say if you find a place you like that says "no pets" ask them anyway. You never know. And good luck!

  23. Something to keep in mind. Check the Bedbug Registry before renting in an area. Bedbugs are becoming endemic in Toronto. Downtown is rife with reports, you can see them on a map, you can also search by address.

    http://bedbugregistry.com/
    http://bedbugregistry.com/metro/toronto/

    An acquaintance picked up bedbugs in a hotel and had a horrific and very expensive experience getting them killed in her apartment. The infestation created real psychological problems for her, she had insomnia for weeks.

  24. Fred says:

    Social Mange, thanks for that. I'm feeling itchy already.

  25. Lynn says:

    I've had to find a place a few times in my past and it's a challenge, but it's possible. I always went with the approach of trying to get the potential landlord to really want me as a tenant by stressing all my good, responsible traits, then bringing up the "pet thing" towards the end. This was all BEFORE moving in, of course. I found two nice places that way, places that weren't originally listed as "pets OK." I just couldn't ever see that I'd be successful by beginning the conversation with dogs.

    The second thing that really surprised me is that twice I ended up in a place with no yard. I'd just take Savannah, my large Husky mix, on two, maybe three walks each day, and she seemed happy as can be to stay in the house the rest of the time. She had large windows to look out of during the day, which she enjoyed. I actually think she liked that situation better than living with a large yard and having fewer walks. I guess it really depends on the dog, but it worked well for me.

    And just an aside...you get really used to going to the laundromat if you have to. It's not that bad. Good luck! I feel your pain. It's not easy, but you'll find something that works.

  26. Slight segue - Toronto tenants should join the Federation of Metro Tenants' Associations. They're very helpful with issues. Individual membership is only $15/year.

    http://www.torontotenants.org/

  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  28. Fred says:

    Hi Rachel and Kurtis, thanks for the contact info. I didn't post it because of the phone number but thanks.

  29. OH. If you see an ad advertising a/c (air conditioning), ask if it's CENTRAL air. Some places stick a hinky old window air conditioner in and say there's a/c. There's nothing like CAC for these humid summers.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I work as a super in a building on Upper Gerrard. No grass back yard, but two ravines between and big park on one side. When I started my job, I was told by owner that they would prefer if I try to rent to people without pets. Every time I have people viewing apartment I make sure to tell them, before they even ask that pets are welcome in this building. Hahahaha, you should see how many dogs we got in just two years. Bottom line is you have a right to move in with your pet. Respect the property, don't walk your dog without leash in the building and you would be fine. Right now I only have bachelors for rent. One and two bedrooms are in high demand in this building.Peace!

  31. Fred says:

    Anon, LOL. Thanks for that.

  32. My husband and I have had pets together for over 8 years now, and have had to move four times (well, fifth as we just moved into our own home, yay!). Each time it was difficult to find a rental ONLY because of the pet issue. One time, we were forced to choose a terrible tiny studio because it was the only place that would allow our cat.

    Each time, we also had the "lie or not to lie" discussion. Luckily, we managed to avoid that; the closest we came was bending the truth by saying that our dog was house broken. She was a 12 week old puppy at the time, but only had one accident in the house.

    Each time we had to house search, we were flabbergasted by the number of landlords who advertised "fenced back yard!" and then said "no pets". Or went to look at a place that had old, gross, stained carpeting and "kid graffiti" all over the walls, and when we asked why they wouldn't allow a dog, they said "dogs stain the carpet and chew the baseboards". Everywhere we went it seemed the attitude was, "we don't need to be inclusive, rentals are in high demand, we'll get a renter no matter what, so why bother taking a small risk on a pet?"

    For our last move, literally our only two choices within a 45 minute commute of work were between a second-story apartment and a broken-down single-wide trailer (the trailer option was also the only one out of 50 ads that we looked at that said "pets welcome"). If we'd been pet free, we would have had our choice of over a dozen rentals.

  33. Anonymous says:

    There are 4 buildings right at Lansdowne and Dupont where I live - the Standard Lofts. There are a bazillion dogs in those buildings. Very dog friendly. Dinglehopper and Razzleberry have lots of friends. More dogs than kids, which in my mind (and the minds of many others) is nice. They aren't high rises - 6 floors max and many of the apartments (especially in 800 and 806 Lansdowne) are 2 level apartments. They aren't your typical cookie cutter apartments, where every 1 bedroom (etc) is the same layout - there are many different layouts. Unfortunately no fenced yard there despite being told, for years, that there would be a fenced area built. However there is a fenced dog park right up the road (Earlscourt). There's also a park with a large grassy area a 10 minute walk away (Campbell park). Downside - there is a condo being built right there and more to come... so some people think it's loud. I personally don't. A

  34. Anonymous says:

    Check out the apartments near Old Mill station..right on the subway line, pet friendly and lots of low rises. Near Kingsmill offleash park and the humber river and 3 stops away from High Park

  35. Keith says:

    Any updates on your search, Fred?

  36. Fred says:

    Yep, found a place near where I live now. Thanks for asking.

  37. Keith says:

    Glad to read that, Fred. But now you're obliged to enlighten your audience with the answer to "How?"

  38. Fred says:

    A few people suggested that establishing a good relationship with a prospective landlord works wonders when it comes to whether or not they're okay with a tenant bringing in a dog and I found that to be true. I went to maybe 6 or 7 places before finding the one I eventually ended up taking and most of those places weren't necessarily pet friendly. I would visit the accommodation and talk to the landlord hoping to give the impression that I was responsible and not about to damage their rental unit and only bring up owning a dog at the end. Every place except one turned out to be okay with that. So, I guess that's the strategy: be presentable and you'll do okay. Landlords, for the most part, except for the super uptight ones - and who wants a super uptight landlord anyway - just want responsible tenants regardless of whether or not there's a pet in the picture.

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A request

The reason for this blog is to help get specific dogs adopted from TAS but equally important is to try to normalize the idea of shelter dogs being just as good and just as desirable as any other dogs including those which are regularly merchandised by backyard breeders, puppy millers and those few remaining pet store owners who still feel a need to sell live animals. The single greatest stigma shelter animals still face is the belief that shelter animals are substandard animals. Anyone who has had enough experience with shelter animals knows this is untrue but the general public hasn't had the same experiences you've had. They see a nice dog photo in a glossy magazine and too many of them would never think of associating that dog with a dog from a shelter. After all, no one abandons perfectly good dogs, right? Unfortunately, as we all know, perfectly good dogs are abandoned all the time.

The public still too often associates shelter dogs with images of beat up, sick, dirty, severely traumatized animals and while we definitely sometimes see victims such as these, they are certainly not the majority and, regardless, even the most abused animals can very often be saved and made whole again.

Pound Dogs sometimes discusses the sad histories some of the dogs have suffered. For the most part, though, it tries to present the dogs not as victims but as great potential family members. The goal is to raise the profiles of animals in adoption centers so that a potential pet owner sees them as the best choice, not just as the charity choice.

So, here's the favour I'm asking. Whenever you see a dog picture on these pages you think is decent enough, I'd like you to consider sharing it on Facebook or any other social media sites you're using (I know many of you do this already and thank you for that). And when you share it, please mention that the dog in the photo is a shelter dog like so many other shelter dogs waiting for a home. If we can get even five percent of the pet buying public to see shelter dogs differently, to see how beautiful they are and how wonderful they are, and to consider shelter dogs as their first choice for a new family member, we can end the suffering of homeless pets in this country.
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