by John Bradford
Perhaps one of the most positive developments in the rental-housing industry over the past decade is the increased focus on pet-friendly communities. Operators understand the importance—and benefits—of better catering to pet owners and have begun to create less-rigid policies.
But with the increased volume of pets and pet-centric amenities, operators also must promote another facet of the equation—responsible pet ownership.
A pet-friendly atmosphere is fantastic, of course. But it can be unruly for fellow pet owners—and non-pet owners—if a pet population is not properly managed. Some residents complain when swimming pool access is unrestricted at an apartment community, and the pool area seemingly transforms into a college frat party.
Operators certainly don’t want the pet equivalent of that, in which a series of rambunctious dogs, some that live there and some that don’t, are disrupting the living space with what appears to have no rules.
Thankfully, property teams can take steps to help ensure their communities are not only pet-friendly to the max, but also pet-responsible. Here are some of the ways:
Conquer pet waste
First and foremost, no one is in favor of a property strewn with pet waste. It’s smelly, unsightly and the last thing you want on a prospective resident’s shoe when they walk into the leasing office or community amenity space. While this largely falls on the pet owner, naturally, property teams can take steps to assist.
Most prominent is to keep pet waste bags fully stocked. Providing the resources for a clean property makes a significant impact. Granted, some pet owners won’t comply. For communities experiencing anything of the sort, doggie DNA services are available. This enables teams to trace the waste back to a particular pet and levy warnings or penalties on the owner. Oftentimes the mere presence of this service curtails the issue.
Effective pet amenities
Community teams sometimes get extremely creative here, which is wonderful. But the simplest pet amenities often make the largest impact. A pet park, for instance, enables dogs to burn off energy and makes it less likely they’ll resort to nuisance barking or other disruptive behaviors. It also ensures they’ll have a designated place to relieve themselves outside of the stairwell or well-manicured courtyard.
Many operators have suggested that shade options at any pet park are a near-necessity, for protection of both pets and pet owners on summer days. While dog wash stations, pet concierge services and pet spas are also nice additions, a basic pet park—or designated pet area—should be the first objective at any community with a significant pet population.
Screen pets and their owners
One way to curb potentially disruptive pets or irresponsible pet owners is to evaluate them from the outset. Easy-to-use tech tools are now available that can assess pets and their owners based on past behaviors and potential for damage or disruption. Many communities are abandoning traditional restrictions, such as breed and weight, in favor of evaluating each pet and owner on an individual basis. Property teams maintain the right to deny a pet, but not due to any preexisting characteristics.
The screening process, which can also be used to help manage accommodation animal requests, can continue for pets and owners during their residency. Community teams can log any incidents, note positive behaviors and make the report available for future rental communities.
Partner with pet local services
You might not be able to offer a dog-walking service at your community, but chances are that someone in the neighborhood does. Properties can partner with local dog walkers, dog trainers and veterinarians to help promote a healthy and positive pet atmosphere. Some communities have also partnered with local shelters and played host to pet adoption events.
Rental communities are gradually increasing their pet-centric initiatives and reaping the benefits—longer stays, a wider pool of residents and an increased sense of community. But as they increase their pet-friendliness, property teams must keep in mind the responsibility component, as well.