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Everything a Renter Needs to Know About Adopting a Pet

Everything a Renter Needs to Know About Adopting a Pet

Pet ownership has plenty of benefits, including love, friendship and plenty of kicks and giggles. However, combining pet ownership with renting can be a bit tricky, so we’ve compiled a complete guide to what renters should know about adopting a pet AND living with a pet.

Should I Adopt a Pet?

Adopting a pet will be cheaper than buying a pet and will help reduce pet overpopulation. It also yields many emotional benefits (reduces stress, feels like family) and physical benefits (prevents heart disease).

Let’s break down some of the details. In humanitarian terms (or would this be petitarian terms?), there is a huge need for pet adoption. These adopting-a-pet statistics shared by ASPCA (@aspca) are heart-breaking:

Pet Stats

This video from Petco (@petco) not only echoes those stats, but includes some compelling benefits of adopting a pet, both emotional and physical, such as a pet:

Check out for video for all the research-based facts:

So yes, there are plenty of reasons to adopt a pet if you’re a pet lover. However, some are confused as to whether they should be adopting a pet from a shelter vs. buying a pet.

Adopting a Pet vs. Buying a Pet

We’ve touched on some of the numbers of pets abandoned in shelters. Here are some of the benefits of adopting a pet from a shelter, courtesy of the American Humane Association (@americanhumane) and the Humane Society (@humanesociety) :

Reduce overpopulation: When you adopt, you give a pet a second chance and reduce the nation’s overpopulation problem.

Not from a puppy mill: Unless you buy from a responsible breeder, you have to be careful you’re not buying from puppy mills, where dogs are not bred for good health and temperament and usually come with a host of physical and behavioral problems.

Cost: You won’t necessarily be adopting a pet for free, but the cost of spaying/neutering, first vaccinations and sometimes microchipping is usually included in the purchase price.

House-training: Many pets coming from shelters tend to be already house-trained.

Happy pets: Pets in shelters are often abandoned as a result of a divorce or a move, so they’re happy and looking for a loving home.

Here’s a nice video on How to Adopt from a Shelter from Howcast. @howcast

The Costs of Adopting a Pet Are Small, But Consider the Costs of Owning a Pet, Too

While there are also many reasons to adopt a pet, we also don’t want to be irresponsible with this post and have you adopt a pet that you can’t afford.

The costs of adopting a pet can range from $0-500, but keep in mind all the potential costs that can come afterward. (@gobankingrates) has published this chart that include some estimates of pet ownership (these likely are annual, and include food, vet bills, etc.):

Cost of Owning a Pet

There are some eye-opening articles on the costs of pet ownership, including this one by – which notes, “Very few people have any idea how much owning a dog really costs and grossly underestimate it.” – and Petfinder’s in-depth breakdown of annual dog care costs. also provided a nice comparison of costs for dogs and cats. (@rentdotcom)

Is Adopting a Pet Tax Deductible?

The long and short of it is “No.” While there were some efforts to pass a bill called the HAPPY Act back in 2009, it failed, and costs to pet owners are by and large not tax deductible.

We will steer you to this article by with some unique approaches that may allow you to claim a tax deduction, but we’d highly recommend you consult with an accountant before using any of them.

YES, I want to adopt a pet…but I rent my apartment!

Adopt a Pet

We’ve given you a good overview of the benefits (and the costs) of adopting a pet. Now let’s consider it from a renter’s perspective.

Things a Renter Should Consider Before Adopting a Pet

Costs: We mentioned costs above. Make sure your budget is flexible – we absolutely don’t want to add to the numbers at those shelters. Know that if you rent with a pet, you can likely expect extra costs on your security deposit.

In fact, according to this 2014 Survey by, over half of renters with pets paid more than $200 annually in pet deposits and monthly fees.

Cost of Owning Dog

Time Commitment: You’ll need to spend time with your animal, and a dog in particular will require walks. Are you crazy busy, or will you have time for an animal? Are you also willing to have a pet for many years? Cats can live up to 15 to 20 years and dogs 12 to 15 years, as noted by

Type of Pet: It’s very important that you find a pet and a breed that’s conducive to your lifestyle. If you live in a very urban area, have a cramped apartment, and don’t like going outside, then an energetic dog probably isn’t for you. And remember that if you opt for a puppy, you’ll be dealing with chewing, bathroom trips in the middle of the night, and training.

Your Mental Mindset: Are you ready for your first child? Sounds funny, but that’s what pet ownership is like. It’s very similar to have a child: It’s a big financial and emotional commitment. You’ll be sacrificing some aspect of your lifestyle, so you need to be prepared for a big change in your life.

Pet ownership is like having a child

Renter’s Insurance: As noted in this great post by (@aptguide), consider getting renter’s insurance (if your property owner doesn’t already require it.) Besides protecting your property, you’ll also get liability protection in the event your pet injures someone.

Are More Rental Properties Becoming Pet-Friendly?

One of the bigger challenges you’ll face is finding pet-friendly apartments, although we’re definitely seeing a strong uptick in pet-friendly rentals.

According to this infographic from, more apartment buildings are now allowing pets.

More Buildings are Allowing Pets

Steve Brown Apartments, for example, upped its number of pet-friendly apartments to meet the needs of our customers in 2014, making nearly 75% of our downtown addresses pet-friendly.

How Do You Find a Pet-Friendly Apartment?

Start by seeking out pet-friendly apartments using a listing site like or As Apartment Therapy notes (@apartmenttherapy), when you find a rental property that’s pet friendly, you won’t have to jump through the hoops you’d encounter with a property manager that typically doesn’t allow pets.

What if a Property Owner Isn’t Pet Friendly?

If you want to rent from a property-owner that does not promote their building as pet-friendly, you can expect to have to jump through a few hoops.

Note that most large properties will deny you pets because they don’t want to set a precedence and/or special circumstances. If they do, other neighbors will be asking for the same. Large property owners have to think about allergies, lease restrictions – there are a lot of variables.

Owners of small properties, duplexes, etc. may be more flexible.

Expect to Jump Through Hoops

Here are some suggested methods to gain the trust of a property owner:

Get references: You may need a reference letter from previous property owners, not only for you, but for your pet.

Propose a trial period: suggest you propse a trial period to see if the arrangement will work for both parties. This will likely work better with a property owner with few apartments.

Be proactive with the property owner: Even though a property owner may not advertise they are pet-friendly, they may have some wiggle room in terms of willingness to rent to pet-owners.

Build a resume for your pet: You will definitely want to built a resume of sorts for your pet – providing information that you are current on all vaccines and that it is spayed or neutered. If your pet has completed a training course, you’ll want to note that as well. notes (@apartmentguide) that if you can “explain how you plan to prevent common pet-related issues, such as: damage to property, infestations like fleas and ticks, and behavorial disturbances like incessant howling.”

You may even want to introduce your pet to your property owner!

Don’t sneak in your pets. The likelihood of getting caught is too high if you sneak pets into your apartment. One of the reasons so many animals wind up in shelters is because of unstable living conditions. For the sake of the pet, it’s best to be honest with your property owner.

Moving to Your New Apartment with Your Pet

Whether you’ve just adopted a new pet or you’re moving from one location to another, it’s going to be a bit traumatic for your pet. put together a nice post on this, with some of these tips as highlights:

Living in Your New Apartment with Your Pet

Once your pet has acclimated to the new surroundings, you can establish a healthy, happy routine. also put together a post on cohabiting with pets, which includes some excellent tips:

Here are some great example of covered cat litter boxes.

Covered Litter Box

What Are Your Legal Rights as a Pet-Owner and a Renter?

Your top concern, from a legal standpoint, is the lease. You either want your lease to say that pets are allowed, or, as noted on the Humane Society’s website, make sure your lease doesn’t say “no pets allowed.”

Some other important legal issues to keep in mind:

Along the lines of the last note, you can reach out for help from non-profit agencies if you run into a tough situation. In Madison, the Tenant Resource Center is always a good resource.

Here are some details about the Fair Housing Act and Companion Animals as well.

Frequently Asked Questions About Renting with Pets

We’ve covered some of the big topics, but here is a comprehensive list of related articles:

How do I find a pet-friendly rental in Madison?

How do I respond to a pet nuisance complaint?

How do I deal with noisy pets?

How do I make a pet-friendly apartment ideal for a dog?

How do I prevent my cat from destructive scratching?

How do I keep my cat happy indoors?

How do I get my dog to stop barking?

How do I stop a dog’s inappropriate chewing?

How I prevent a dog’s separation anxiety?

How do I stop my dog from jumping on people?

Pet Adoption

Places for Renters to Adopt Pets in Madison and Dane County, WI

We’ll start out listing with Madison (Dane County), and then move on to other locations in Wisconsin:

Madison – Dane County Humane Society
Dane County Humane Society is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of Helping People Help Animals.

MadisonFetch Wisconsin Rescue
Fetch Wisconsin saves the lives of at-risk dogs in high-kill shelters by providing care and rehabilitation and matching them with loving, forever homes.

Madison/Verona Angel’s Wish
Angel’s Wish is dedicated to reducing animal overpopulation, rehoming companion animals, and raising awareness of animal welfare issues in South Central Wisconsin.

Other Pet Adoption Organizations in Wisconsin

Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Racine County Wisconsin Humane Society

Founded in 1879, the Wisconsin Humane Society has been saving the lives of animals in need for 135 years. WHS operates shelters in Milwaukee, Ozaukee and Racine County.

Adopting from the Wisconsin Humane Society
Rehoming Listings from the Wisconsin Humane Society

Wisconsin Animal Rescue – Part of
View thousands of rescue animals for adoption, or get help for an animal in need by visiting our nonprofit rescue website.

Green CountyGreen County Humane Society
A non-profit, no-kill animal shelter serving Green and Lafayette counties that’s located in Monroe, Wisconsin.

Baraboo – Sauk County Humane SocietyAn open admission shelter where no animal is ever turned away no matter its age, condition, extent of injuries, or behavior.

Eau ClaireEau Claire County Humane Association
The Eau Claire County Humane Association has an open admission philosophy — they accept every animal regardless of health, age, breed, or temperament.

JanesvilleThe Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin (formerly the Rock County Humane Society)
The Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin is a private nonprofit 501c3 organization whose mission is to provide shelter and humane care to lost and homeless pets, reunite lost pets with their families, promote positive pet adoptions and educate our community in order to inspire compassion and responsible pet guardianship.

Shell LakeWashburn County Area Humane Society
WCAHS is the official pound for stray animals in Washburn County but also provides shelter on an average to over 700 homeless animals annually.

SirenHumane Society of Burnett County
The Humane Society of Burnett County, Inc.’s mission is to provide a safe haven for stray or unwanted animals, to foster the human-animal bond, to promote responsible pet ownership and to end pet overpopulation through spay/neuter.

If you’re considering pet ownership, we hope you’ll consider adopting a pet as your first option. Please let us know if there are additional resources that should be added to this list!

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Published on Jan 27 2016

Last Updated on Oct 07 2022

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