No paradise for pets

Finding a place to rent these days can be challenging.

Add pets to the mix and it’s enough to drive any animal-lover to distraction.

It prompted Suzi Rolniak to take out a classified ad in the Compass appealing to landlords for a home to share with ‘two lazy cats and one friendly guard dog.’

‘Everywhere I called, all the ads in the paper, it was instantly – no animals.’

Rolniak had been looking around for several weeks without luck. One landlord was willing to make an exception but the rental was priced out of her range.

Fortunately, her classified worked. Rolniak found a place within a week. Others haven’t been so lucky.

‘It’s been a complaint I’ve heard many, many times,’ said Giuseppe Gatta, president of the Cayman Islands Humane Society.

‘Even before the hurricane it was difficult. Now, it’s more difficult than ever. Landlords are getting choosier and choosier.’

Veterinarian Lana Watler of Cayman Animal Hospital says the no-pet rule has made life difficult for owners who found themselves without a roof over their heads after Ivan. They may have been able to relocate but their four-legged friends haven’t been welcome.

‘A lot of people have their pets living with friends or in a garage. In the best of times, it’s hard to find a place. The market now is so bad. (Landlords) will take someone with no pets over someone with pets.’

She said some people have given up the search and sent their pets overseas to stay with family or friends.

That’s what Nadine Tappenden, a veterinary nurse at the clinic, was preparing to do with her two dogs after a three-month search to find affordable, pet-friendly accommodation. Just before making the final arrangements, she found a landlord willing to take them in.

‘We were very lucky. I know there are many other people who have sent their pets off island.’

Tappenden contacted numerous places and enlisted several real estate agents to help with her search. In the end, she found the rental by word of mouth.

‘It was just a fluke. I haven’t seen a single ad that says ‘pets welcome’. We called lots of real estate agents but we didn’t have any feedback. It’s difficult for a lot of people.’

She said some people have opted to put their pets in long-term boarding while others are keeping their pets in their own hurricane-torn homes that are under construction, visiting them once or twice day.

‘It’s not good socially for the animals and it’s hard for the owners. You’ve always got to worry about the builders leaving gates or doors open. And it’s not their fault. But pets are getting out and getting hit by cars.’

Humane Society manager Jacqueline Zelaya said only a few animals have wound up at the shelter because of rental difficulties. However, they’ve had people bringing in animals found wandering the streets – some abandoned or lost in the storm.

‘We’ve had around 300 to 350 brought in to us since the storm. That’s a big number.’

Donna Baxter, owner of the boarding kennel Cayman Pet Paradise, wound up with six dogs that still haven’t been claimed by their owners.

The storm devastated her Savannah compound – including her two-storey home – but she’s remained operational throughout. She now has 19 dogs and six cats in her charge. Several animals are there because their owners haven’t been able to find accommodation that allows pets.

‘It’s happened to so many people. It’s extremely difficult at this time if you have a pet.’

She suggests landlords concerned about potential damage ask for an extra security deposit or charge an additional fee per month per pet.

‘Most people are willing to pay that.’

Dr. Lana Watler also recommends asking for a certificate of health from a vet for those wary of renting their property to pet owners.

Amber Yates, a real estate agent with Century 21, has found that a growing number of landlords are making exceptions to the no-pet rules as more people are travelling or relocating with pets.

‘It’s actually gotten an awful lot better.’

She said the property owners she’s been dealing with are asking for a pet security deposit of between $200 and $500.

‘We’ve never had any destruction from a pet either.’

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