To Pet or not to Pet ...that is the Question!

A young man felt sorry for his lonely grandma so he bought her a parrot and delivered it the same day. She was thrilled. The next day he called Grandma to inquire about the parrot. "That was the best parrot I ever tasted" she replied. Horrified, he shouted "Grandma, you didn't eat the parrot, did you? That parrot cost $1,000 and spoke 4 languages!" And Grandma answered "Well then he should'a said something."

Do you consider a parrot a pet requiring a deposit in your apartment community? What about a fish or a snake? A monkey or a lizard?

Most of us know very clearly our company's position on dogs and cats, but when it comes to something more exotic, we're not sure. 90% of the companies I recently polled have nothing in writing regarding animals other than canines and kitties.

The challenge is clearly defining which pets require a deposit and which don't. A generalization like birds don't require an additional financial obligation by their owners doesn't work. Why? A canary that stays caged at all times does no damage to your property.

However, a hookbill parrot, allowed out of it's cage (and all us parrot lovers do allow them some freedom) can demolish a wooden window frame, wallpaper and wood cabinets. Take my word for it. I just got a bid for $350 to replace and paint the window molding where one of my parrots, Tuki, had a hey day after I let her out and left the room.

And what about a little old goldfish in a bowl? No deposit required. But suppose that goldfish lived in a 100 gallon aquarium with 20 other fishes? Have you ever seen the damage 100 gallons of water from an upstairs apartment can do? That's a different story.

When it comes to reptiles, the decision must be "should we allow them at all?" As harmless as a baby boa constrictor is, it could get free and disappear into an attic, a wall, under a floor.

That doesn't do much harm, until you have to tear into walls and floors to find it.

Exotic pets live in 15% of America's households. Certainly we don't want to deprive apartment residents their pets. As a matter of fact, as our nation's population continues to mature more and more of us will keep a pet for company. So the issue really isn't to pet or not to pet, but how much the deposit should be to protect the property and allow for full compensation for repairs.

Deposits throughout the nation range from $100 to $400. Some communities charge additional rent, usually $10 to $20 a month for a "pet resident". Some have detailed non refundable portions of the deposit for exterminating, carpet cleaning and deodorizing. Several companies now require "meet the pet" interviews prior to leasing to pet owners. Some now photograph the pet and staple the picture to the pet agreement for easy identification if the pet is out and unsupervised.

All of us know the value, and the difficulty of enforcing leash laws. Residents who don't have pets appreciate not being jumped on by an unleashed barking dog. But it is our responsibility, and another challenge, to enforce the laws.

As the American population grows older and more sophisticated, Spot, Rover and Tiger will be kept company by or even replaced by, more exotic pets. Perhaps it's time to reevealuate our policies and consider what must be done to protect our property, our residents and ourselves when the 100 gallon aquarium on the third floor breaks, Polly the parrot "custom decorates" the woodwork and Bob the boa constrictor joins everyone at the pool.

by Anne Sadovsky
one of Multi-housing's foremost marketing and motivational speakers.

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