Moving to southern Utah, I found it nearly impossible to secure a rental where pets were allowed. Finally, I discovered a two-bedroom house in Santa Clara, a property that — let me tell you — looked far too lonely and too big when just little ole me and my pooch moved in. But despite being oversized, I took it because it was the only place I could find.
Eventually, I was enlightened to how people sometimes get around this: register your pet as a service or comfort animal and most rentals cannot refuse the property to you based on your animal-loving disposition. While many service animals go through a long and intense training process, it is also possible to register your pet online or persuade your doctor to sign off on your codependence (whether or not you’re simply doing this to beat the system is on your conscience). Service animals are not considered pets, and working the system backwards — taking your pet and then registering it as a service animal — violates the definition and system.
Two of my friends with dogs — about 40 percent of my friends with pets, clearly illustrating my great and diverse range of friendships — did just this. One applied online for her pet to be considered a service dog. Application approved, no training needed. Another friend had her doctor write her a note for the dog to be considered a comfort animal. Both pet owners subsequently got approved for their housing, no problem.
Restaurant proprietors and property owners are clearly allowed to create and safeguard their own rules regarding their establishments, and beating the system isn’t the answer. While a solution is difficult to pin down, the glaring disparities in pet policies make it difficult for animal owners to understand what’s going on.
Animals in restaurants and stores are a health hazard
Unless they are service animals … then suddenly, it isn’t a health code violation? I understand and empathize with the needs of those who require service animals, and my words here are not intended to belittle their lives, struggles, or needs. Even more so, since service animals are not considered pets, these animals (which the ADA limits to dogs) must be able to accompany their owner anywhere they go.
But by definition, health codes and health code violations should be a black-and-white issue. Discretionary measures don’t make logical sense in this arena. According to the FDA, service animals are allowed “in areas that are not used for food preparation and that are usually open for customers, such as dining and sales areas.” Makes perfect sense as it aligns with the ADA regulation. However, there are state and local laws that also govern health code, and sometimes stores and restaurants do allow pets into their facilities. In addition, both pets and service animals are animals and have the capacity to leave behind fur and other contaminants. As stated, a solution to this is nearly impossible to navigate, but the discrepancies make it difficult to understand what the standard regulations are.
And yet, no one bats an eye if your dog fits comfortably in your purse or your shopping basket
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen a small dog in the grocery store, whether or not there’s a sign on the front sliding doors prohibiting their entry, and yet they jauntily ride amid lipsticks and old receipts, surveying the aisles without a care in the world. Meanwhile, the large dog owner is stuck in a quandary—they could drive all the way home to drop their pet off and then return to the store thirty minutes later, leave the dog in the car, where — nine months out of the year in southern Utah — the cops will be called for animal abuse (which, of course, is necessary in many cases), or never take their dog anywhere for fear of being in said quandary. The frustration here isn’t with small dog breeds but with the inconsistencies in what is and isn’t allowed.
Besides owners with the staunch “absolutely no pets” mentality, most rentals will accept pets under a certain weight
This is perhaps the most ludicrous limitation I will contend. They throw this restriction out there on the premise that larger pets (namely, dogs) are louder and more destructive. While, yes, larger dogs by definition tend to have a louder bark, they also — in my humble experience — tend to bark less frequently. For a field example, head to any dog park. There are two conveniently located in the St. George/Washington area. Both of these parks are divided into a “large dog” section and a “small dog” enclosure. Nine times out of ten, one side is far louder than the other. I’ll let you guess which.
Sure, a big dog can probably shred a couch faster than a toy poodle, but if you list the top dog breeds that urinate when excited, scared, or nervous (thus destroying your rental property’s carpets), you’re likely to list small dogs over large breeds. Personally, I have found it incredibly difficult to find a well-trained small breed, with the exception of the Jack Russell.
For field proof, research the top most intelligent dogs. Small dogs have rarely, if ever, made the cut. Check out dog agility competitions, where the animals are demonstrating and being judged on their capacity for training: their weigh-in usually starts around the 40-pound mark.
My point is that while big dogs can technically create more damage, they also — very broadly speaking — have the capacity for better behavior, thus lessening the likelihood of any damage occurring to begin with.
To top this all off, rentals almost always require a pet deposit and add a monthly pet fee to your rent. This means that if your pet damages part of the property, you pay for it. Doesn’t this make most of the argument moot?
As mentioned, rental managers and restaurant or store owners have a right to deny entry of animals. And pet owners are under no obligation to own an animal, thus they don’t have any right to bring their pets anywhere and everywhere they please. But the restrictions seem arbitrary, leaving some animal owners wondering what cities that are more animal-friendly look like — and more importantly, wondering why there are cities more pet-friendly than others.