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Survey seeks to help folks keep their furry friends

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As Executive Director of Colorado Animal Rescue, Wes Boyd has watched renters struggle with the choice between their pets and a place to live.

“We noticed that there are a large number of animals that come into the shelter that are displaced from their homes due to rental restrictions. It’s the single largest reason that people have to give up their pets,” he said. “We’ve seen families with kids or elderly citizens forced to give up their cat or dogs. It’s heart wrenching.There’s no love like the love of an animal. If it’s not in your life, it’s missing from your life.”

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So, Boyd decided to do something about it. After participating in the Roaring Fork Leadership Academy, he pitched a civic project called the Pet Friendly Housing Initiative, which ended up being one of five selected.

It starts with an online survey for tenants, landlords and others, at surveymonkey.com/r/PetFriendlyHousingSurvey — with a $100 White House Pizza gift certificate on the line for one randomly selected participant.  

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Boyd and the rest of “Team Scratch and Sniff” hope questions like, “Would you be willing to pay more for pet friendly housing?” or “What factors have influenced your decision to allow or not allow pets?” will shed some light on the situation.

“It’s very short and straightforward. It should take less than five minutes,” said Leadership Liaison Kim Wells. “We’re looking for concrete answers on what those barriers are so we can offer some support.”

Indeed, the survey invites participants to respond to some ideas, like legal help with lease language, a central location for pet-friendly listings or financial support for damages.

“People may be stuck in a mindset that’s not accurate,” Boyd said. “We expect there to be a lot of reasoning about pets doing damage in the home. Also, a lot of HOAs have bylaws that just restrict pets in rental units, and we hope that’s just because they’ve been in place for a long time and they’re difficult to change.We’re hoping to offer some alternative stories that could influence property owners decisions and highlight the benefits of pets for families.”

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While Welles is looking forward to having trends and concrete information to work with, there’s no shortage of anecdotal information in the meantime. An inquiry in the “Roaring Fork Rentals & Roommates” Facebook group prompted numerous responses.

Daniel Walker wrote that he was homeless for nine months before he found a place that would accept his Great Dane, Pongo. Even now, he commutes all the way from No Name. Meanwhile, Alex Spiker had to go all the way to Silt to find a place that would allow large dogs — with even places that allow pets balking at a golden retriever. For Lisa Curley, relocating from Park City for a job at the Post Independent meant staying in an expensive one-room vacation rental at first, and her current pet-friendly situation is about to change.

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“I want to buy a place so I don’t have the issue anymore but there is limited housing for sale and what is for sale is so inflated it is crazy,” she wrote. “Carbondale spoke to me, and I want to call it home.”

“I honestly don’t understand why pets are that big of a deal to have in rentals,” Amy Moore added. “I’ve seen kids more destructive than pets. I’ve seen kids color on walls, put holes in them by throwing toys or have accidents where they knocked over furniture, and I’ve even seen toddlers pee on carpet. We love our kids, we love our pets. I think if you could prove you are a responsible pet owner and even willing to pay a pet fee or a bigger deposit, then they should be allowed.”

Ashley Gann of Dog’s Best Friend agreed.

“Our business is supported by responsible and professional pet owners who hire our services to let their pup out midday while they are at work to prevent accidents. I’m amazed at the number of responsible pet owners in our valley who understand that owning a dog is not easy and take the extra steps to properly care for their pups.”

Landlord Jesse Zucco brought a slightly different perspective.

“It is not the pets that are the problem, it is some of the people who own pets,” he observed. “I allow pets and I have had mostly good tenants, but when it goes bad, it goes really bad… I think one of the biggest problems is people don’t realize how much they have to work to pay the bills in this valley and therefore the pets are left at home to potty in the house.”

Whether the Initiative will be able to make up for that remains to be seen, but the team’s goal is “a future where more rental properties and HOAs permit pets so that families can stay together and all pet lovers can have the opportunity to adopt.”

“I can’t imagine having to go through that,” Wells said. “Our pets are our family members.”

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