Is it possible to rent an apartment near Boston with a therapy dog?

May 6, 2015

I have always wanted a dog. I grew up with a dog, and ever since he died when I was 11 years old, I’ve wanted another.

3-27-2015 4-01-42 PM

Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get to babysit for this cutie!

In my 20s I knew I didn’t have the right lifestyle for a dog. I worked long hours and traveled a lot and, if I’m being honest, the truth is that I just wasn’t ready for the responsibility. Then when I got so sick I had to leave my job, I was home a lot. I stopped traveling. But I was so sick that I could barely take care of myself, never mind another being.

Now it’s different. I’m still too sick to work, but I’m doing a lot better. I’m more stable. I’m taking care of myself ok. And I really really really want a dog. I ache to have a dog. Literally. When friends talk about their dogs, I ache to be in their shoes. When friends post photos on Facebook of dogs that need adoption, I ache to take those dogs home. I’m so ready to have a dog. And I’ve been mostly sure I could handle taking care of a dog, except for the walking part. Dogs need exercise, but some need more than others. I could get a dog that doesn’t need much exercise. I’ve been working hard at walking most days, and I’m taking short walks about 6 days a week! (Woo hoo! Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while know how big this is!) But dogs need to pee and poop more than once a day.

So I felt there were three big obstacles to me getting a dog:
1) Walking.
2) Money.
3) My landlord.

Then something changed. I was talking to a friend this week about how much I want a dog and my concerns about walks, and she suggested training one to use a litter box. Many people have suggested that, but it sounds ridiculous. The thing is, she did it! She had a dog that used a litter box! She also had a friend who did it. So maybe it wasn’t that ridiculous after all? I looked it up online and found some great resources. There’s even special litter for dogs! This totally solves problem #1!!!

Now, let’s assume I can handle the money aspects. Those are a real concern, but I’m working on them.

That leaves my landlord as the final obstacle, and I can’t imagine how I can possibly overcome that problem. You see, Boston is a pricey city. (When I say “Boston” I mean the neighboring towns, too. Just fyi.) There’s also a very low rental vacancy rate. This means that rents are high and landlords have a lot of power. I won’t get into all the details of the effects of the Recession on the housing market, etc. Just believe me when I say this is a tough place to be a renter. And the vast majority of landlords don’t allow dogs. Including mine. (My landlord doesn’t allow cats, either. And I believe birds are also off limits.)

Remember back in February when I said I was looking for an apartment? Well I did. I looked. And I gave up. I’ve been in my current place for many years, and my landlord hasn’t been raising my rent as much as they could. I pay a lot less than new tenants in my building. So even though I was looking in a less expensive area (where I’d rather live anyway) I couldn’t find anyplace as nice as mine. And I wasn’t even looking for a place that allowed dogs!

“Wait, what if it was a therapy dog?” you might ask. A lot of people have asked that. And yes, by law all landlords have to allow therapy pets. I would have no trouble getting my doctor to write the necessary letter. In fact, she has previously said that I should consider getting a pet because it would help me. So let’s assume I got the letter and I had a therapy pet. Now by law my landlord can’t kick me out, right? Sure, but they can “forget” to fix things in a timely manner. And when my lease comes up for renewal, they can raise my rent to what my neighbors pay – $300 a month more! I wouldn’t be able to claim discrimination if others pay that much. And future landlords might be just as difficult…. if I could even find a new place to live! Remember, I already looked at apartments last winter. Yes, there were places, but do I really want to live someplace smaller, darker, and louder just so I can have a dog? I’m not sure.And what if that place didn’t work out either? I really don’t want to move constantly.

So now I’m wondering, what’s the reality of living with a therapy dog when you rent an apartment? Do landlords retaliate? Or do they actually accommodate you the way they should? I know that no one person can speak for all landlords, but I would really love to hear about people’s experiences to find out if this is even possible. If you have a therapy dog and you rent an apartment, how has it been for you?

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