Two dogs in a cage.
File photo. Credit: Zuzia Whelan.

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Maggie Howard and two friends set up Dogs Aid Animal Sanctuary after they saw how many dogs in Ballymun were becoming stray, and being put down, because their owners didn’t want them anymore.

“We get a lot of strays. We’re constantly full with people bringing us dogs,” says Áine McAnally, who calls herself a general “dogsbody” at the 30-year-old charity.

The shelter sees about 300 dogs per year pass through its doors and staff do their best to find them homes, she says.

But, generally, they will not place them with renters.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the time these dogs have already had one home, and one false start,” says McAnally. Dogs Aid doesn’t want them to have another, if a landlord objects to their new furry tenant. “Our general guideline regarding renters, is that the dogs are our priority.”

McAnally says Dogs Aid has nothing against renters, but that saying no to them some makes them feel personally offended. “We try to explain that it’s nothing to do with [them], but it’s the landlords we don’t trust.”

Although not all shelters rule out renters, and not all landlords rule out pet owners, in Dublin’s tight rental market, being a pet lover can make things even tougher.

No Legal Rights

Renters have no legal rights when it comes to pets, McAnally says.

Even if landlords initially say they’ll accept a pet, they can change their mind at any time, without any notice, she says. (A Residential Tenancies Board spokesperson wasn’t available to confirm this.)

“Then you have to get rid of the dog, and rehouse it. There are very few people willing to move for the sake of a dog,” says McAnally.

“You can sign contracts, but the way Irish law is, it regards dogs as property, the same as a bicycle. Irish law is very behind the times regarding animals,” she says. In other words, the shelter has no say in the dog’s welfare after it is adopted.

Unlike Dogs Aid, the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will place pets with renters, as long as they have a letter from their landlord saying it’s okay, according to Gillian Bird, the DSPCA’s head of education.

But Bird is mindful that landlords are always a big risk factor. A landlord can change her mind about your pet, and declare an ultimatum: keep your home or keep your pet.

Or a tenant might be forced to move for some other reason, and find that the only available new home is one with a landlord who doesn’t allow pets. Bird says she gets three or four emails a day from people in this position.

Overall, there has been an increase in people surrendering animals to the DSPCA because of landlords’ requirements, she says. But there are also more animals being re-homed to people who live in rented accommodation.

Because not all landlords are anti-pet. Sinead O’Meara and her husband owns a house in Tyrrelstown that they rent out, and she says they’d be open to tenants with pets.

They’d be nervous because they wouldn’t know the pet’s temperament before it moved in, and they’d want to make sure that the tenant took care of the house, and fixed anything the pet broke, she said. But they wouldn’t rule it out.

Life with a Pet

Aoife O’Sullivan adopted her rescue dog, Eddie, from Dog’s Trust nearly five years ago.

Though she was not renting at the time, she says that it would be a factor in her future plans to adopt.

It’s hard to find somewhere dog-friendly when you’re looking to move, O’Sullivan says. A past landlady told her of the many tearful phone calls she had with potential tenants, who didn’t want to leave pets behind.

This is the reality in Dublin, O’Sullivan says, and shelters know it, and this is why they often won’t give rescues to renters.

Hazel Fahy was renting when she and her sister got a dog, but the dog was a stray, and they never told the landlord. The dog, Kipper, was eventually allowed to stay. Fahy says she doesn’t know what they would have done with it otherwise.

Fahy says that the pet-owners should be liable for damages caused by their pet to their property. But she believes it’s unfair that renters find it difficult to adopt, because not everyone is able to buy a house.

Says Bird, of the DSPCA: “At the end of the day, landlords see a financial loss to themselves.”

Ways of Coping

Like the DSPCA, Dogs Trust requires a letter from the landlord, and a copy of the tenancy agreement before it will allow a renter to adopt.

It also likes to see that the pet will have a secure garden to run around in, says Ciara Byrne, PR and communications manager at Dogs Trust.

There are ways to ease landlords’ minds when trying to get them to agree to take both person and pet, and offering two-months’ rent as a kind of security deposit sometimes helps, says Bird.

Drawing up a separate contract for the pet, which makes it clear that the pet owner is liable for damages to the property, can also be reassuring for landlords.

A spokesperson for the Residential Tenancies Board said that the onus is on the tenant to seek consent to have pets in the property at the outset.

If the landlord allows pets, the definition of normal wear and tear will be assessed with that in mind, and the tenant will be liable for damage outside of that, they said, in a statement.

[CORRECTION: This article was updated on 11 October at 11am. An earlier version misattributed the suggestion about security deposits. Apologies for the error.]

Zuzia Whelan

Zuzia Whelan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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