Every year, countless numbers of companion animals are abandoned by their family members. Most of these innocent victims are not adopted, but killed. One of the leading reasons people abandon animals is the limited rental housing options available to people with animals. Although “behavior problem” are usually cited by shelters as the principal reason for surrender, relocation places second, and in some studies has been the top reason. One has only to scan rental housing ads in the classified sections of any newspaper to see the ubiquitous “no pet” listings.
In a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Study and Policy and published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science (JAAWS), researchers went into 12 selected animal shelters in the United States to find out why animals are surrendered. The results of the study show that 7% of dogs are surrendered because the caretaker is moving, and 6% are surrendered because of a “no-pet” policy. For cats, 8% are surrendered because people are moving, and 6% because of a “no-pet” policy.
Enter Pamela Frank and Joshua Frank, founders of FIREPAW (www.firepaw.org), a non-profit organization committed to reducing and eliminating the abuse, neglect, abandonment, overpopulation and killing of animals. Both have a passion for animals; Joshua has a Ph.D in economics and Pamela has a Ph.D in social and behavioral sciences and extensive experience as a consultant in program developmental evaluation, survey design and statistical analysis.
FIREPAW has recently received a grant to perform a national research study examining the economics of animals in housing markets, and methods for minimizing the risks of allowing companion animals, while maximizing the additional market potential from including renters with animals.
One key hypothesis is that the current shortage of animal-friendly rentals is based on a misperception by rental property owners that renting to tenants with animals is too costly and problem-ridden to justify. The ultimate goal of the research is to statistically demonstrate that for the majority of landlords, offering animal-friendly rentals is not only economically viable, but can actually increase their bottom-line profits.
FIREPAW’s efforts are guided by the belief that substantial and long-term improvements in the treatment of animals can best be achieved by a two-pronged process: research to uncover people’s motivations for maltreating animals, and determining the best methods for changing these attitudes. Educational programs can then be designed to change the public’s consciousness about animals.
In an effort to address the shortage of animal-friendly rental housing, thereby reducing the numbers of abandoned animals, FIREPAW has designed the Companion Animal Renters Program, which includes a national study of landlords and animal-friendly rentals, and a unique, applied program to encourage and assist rental property owners in offering animal-friendly housing. The assistance aims to meet the unique needs of all types of rental properties, from single-unit buildings to large complexes. In conjunction with the assistance for lessors, FIREPAW has also developed an information and resource packet for tenants: “How to Find, Keep and Enjoy A Pet-Friendly Rental.” The booklet offers tenants with animals tips and resources to maximize their attractiveness as rental applicants and to assist in the process of securing—and maintaining—happy and fulfilling housing arrangements for themselves, their neighbors, the property management, and the animals. The information packet includes a resource section tailored to specific regions.
Findings from pilot study interviews indicate that tenants with animals mean good business for rental property owners. “To begin with, “ Pamela says, “offering animal-friendly renters doubles a tenant pool, and yes, we’d like to get everyone into the pool.”
One of FIREPAW’s goals with the national study and the assistance program is to get the word out to many more rental property owners about the economic advantages and overall attractiveness of renting to tenants with animals.
The applied project, called the Companion Animal Renters Program (CARP), helps rental property owners identify responsible people with animals; to screen and detect potential “problem” tenants with animals; to gain methods for reducing problems and enhancing tenant loyalty through connecting property owners with a variety of relevant public services; to learn the best methods for holding residents accountable for their animal’s actions; and to develop and establish strong, effective animal policies and animal agreements.
“Rental property owners” says Pamela, "like many business people, are constantly looking for ways to create an edge and enhance their profit-margins. Increasing revenues while reducing costs—and headaches—is key to survival. FIREPAW’s program is designed to show landlords that adopting animal- friendly polices is one sure-fire way of increasing revenues. FIREPAW assists landlords by offering a well-rounded program tailored to their specific needs.”
Pamela and Joshua Frank are working hard to correct misconceptions about animals and those who care for them.
“People should never have to choose between companion animals and a roof over the their heads,” they say. “No more woof-or-roof policies.”