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'No kill' advocates urge more landlords to accept pets in their units

Over the years, Los Angeles officials have reduced the number of animals being squeezed into city shelters by encouraging the public to adopt, and to spay and neuter their pets.

But with a quarter of animals still being euthanized annually, they're looking for another approach:  Getting more landlords to allow pets so they don't have to be surrendered in the first place.

When pet owners in Los Angeles turn over their animals, they often cite apartment restrictions. That's the reason given for roughly 23 percent of dog surrenders and 19 percent of cats, according to shelter officials based on data between 2011 and 2015.

This week, the City Council unanimously approved a proposal brought by Councilmember Paul Koretz aimed at making landlords more "pet-friendly." In a city where more than half of residents rent, there is the potential to increase the number of people who adopt animals. The city's housing and animal services agencies are tasked with working with landlord and tenant groups to come up with outreach and programming ideas, perhaps by borrowing from other cities.

Koretz pointed out that West Hollywood, where he used to be a councilmember, allows seniors and people with disabilities and HIV/AIDS to have small companion animals in their apartments, regardless of the lease agreement.

He said there might also be lessons learned from the city of Denver, where 98 percent of apartment communities accept cats and 93 percent accept small dogs, according to the American Humane Association.

"We want to see if we can get to the point where our shelter system is no-kill," Koretz said.

Jim Clarke, the head of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles, said he's open to working with a task force, but also acknowledged landlords' reservations about allowing pets.

"Pets create damage," Clarke said. "Scratches on wooden floors, carpet that's been soiled by pet urine."

Clarke said pets also can negatively affect the quality of life for other residents in the building.

"People feeding pets outside can bring in other types of wildlife and vermin," Clarke said. Also, "there's potential for pets to bite other tenants."

A recent AAGLA survey of nearly 300 landlords found that 42 percent of them don't allow pets.

Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles
Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles
Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles

But the majority allow at least one pet. Clarke said these landlords might consider permitting tenants to have more than one animal if they can demand more money for the pet deposit. But Clarke said that the city's rent stabilization ordinance — which regulates about 85 percent of  apartments — keeps landlords from increasing the pet deposit by more than 3 percent a year.

Expanding the number of units that allow pets has the support of tenant advocates like Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival. Gross, who also serves on the city's Board of Animal Services Commission, helped organize a series of five workshop educating pet owners about their rights as tenants. It also taught landlords about their rights and responsibilities.

Koretz said tenants need more pet-friendly options if they're ever forced to move because of a life change like having more children or because a change in circumstances requires downsizing.

"Certainly the more urgently they have to move, the harder it is to find a place that takes pets," Koretz said.

Some parts of the city are better places to look. HotPads, the real estate search engine, mapped out the most pet-friendly parts of the city by zip code.  Looking at greater Los Angeles, it found that Century City was least pet-friendly, and Santa Monica was the most.

This story has been updated.