Why Pets Are Better Tenants than Children






Photo Titled Bad Dog by: Kairos Photo (formerly Oi Jimmy!)

This article was actually conceived because I’m amazed that people can’t get away with discriminating against children, but discriminate against people with pets many times a day!

Now, I am completely against discrimination based on race, sex, sexual preference, etc., however I have a bone to pick with society. I just read about a landlord who has to pay $14,000 in a housing discrimiation case:

According to the complaint, the landlord violated the federal and state fair housing laws when she placed an advertisement in the Montpelier Times Argus for an apartment that indicated a preference for renting to adults only. An investigation revealed that the landlord had instructed a tenant who was trying to sublet the apartment to screen out applicants with minor children.

Under the settlement, the landlord must pay the Housing Discrimination Project $14,000, and attend a three-hour fair housing training. Her rental practices also will be monitored for the next three years. The tenant has agreed to pay $500 for her role in the civil rights violation and to complete 20 hours of community service to the Vermont Fair Housing Council.

I’m not advocating discriminating against children. I just have a bone to pick with the laws in this country that allow people with pets to be discriminated against? Many people have no children, but several pets. There are no laws saying that it is illegal to discriminate against them, are there? NO!

Lets look at the hassles of pets vs. children to see if this is fair:

(Note: I will determine which is better by bolding it)

Pets make lots of noise (barking, meowing, etc.)
Children make lots of noise (screaming, crying, tantrums)

Pets pee on the grass and damage it
Children dig holes in the lawn (and sometimes pee on it) and damage it

Pets often smell bad
Children often smell very bad

Pets can damage the floors and walls with their claws and teeth
Children can damage the walls, floors, sinks, toilets, and anything else they can get their hands, feet, or bodies on

Pets don’t chew gum, and when they do, they usually swallow it
Children often chew gun and leave it inside closets, on walls, carpets, floors, etc.

Pets rarely start house fires
Children are often found to be at the cause of house fires

Pets sometime attack the neighbors, biting or clawing them

Children sometimes attack the neighbors and their pets, biting, clawing, slapping, kicking, or punching them.

Pets sometime climb all over the furniture
Children are usually found climbing on furniture, especially when no one is looking

Pets don’t grow up and become teenagers
Children do

Clearly, pets are superior to children, yet there are no laws protecting petowner discrimination.

Is it time for a change??? What do you think?

About Author

Joshua Dorkin

Joshua Dorkin (@jrdorkin, Google+) founded BiggerPockets.com when he saw a need for free, trustworthy information about real estate investing online. Over the past 12 years, Josh has grown the site from self-funded hobby to full-time job and passion. Today, BiggerPockets brings together over 600,000 members, housing the world’s largest library of real estate content, iTunes’ #1 real estate podcast, and an array of analysis tools, all geared toward helping users succeed.


  1. Joshua,
    Truth be told…I’m still trying to figure out if you are being funny. But you do build a solid case, funny or not.

    For my properties it’s NO CATS. I don’t like them and all they ever seem to do is spray. Dog okay so long as they are legal (ie no pit bulls in certain areas).

    Good post.

  2. Is it time to change? I am not going to start a debade, but this article is a big non-sense: you are comparing animals with human young. Need I say more?
    I love cats and I love dogs. But in rental apartment, for instance, your cat doesn’t go outside, thus, it pees in a litter box, or under the couch, or somewhere else. Who would want their carpet to stick? No one.
    It is a really stupid article and I am very offended. I have two children, so now what, they are worse than pets? I don’t think so.

  3. As a prospective property investor, I would be thrilled to rent to a childless couple. Kids are [generally] very destructive. There’s no getting around that fact.

  4. It’s not a pets vs. children problem. Agree, both can be very destructive. It is an adult people problem. Both pets and children if left on their own with no supervision, rules or discipline will mess things up. It depends on the adults to set the parameters, follow through on discipline, and for goodness sakes, clean up or repair the problem.

  5. I’m sure the list above provides ample reason as to why many people opt for neither.

    Here via CoFL

  6. Okay, that’s funny. The photo your blog is pulling up to go with my comments isn’t me at all, but my co-writer at Play Library, the lovely Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei. 🙂

  7. some people are allergic to pets, especially cats. I’m a realtor and i’ve worked with several clients that have pet allergies, and I have to ask the list agent if pets have ever occupied the property, and you could call that discriminating, but it’s necessary. If it were illegal to discriminate against animals, i’d have alot of itchy clients pissed off at me for not telling them!

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  10. After watching a landlord-client replace the pet-damaged hardwoods and subflooring in a rental costing several thousand dollars, I’d say the current issue is economics and not discrimination. The tenant’s dogs — alone each workday — ruined the floors in a matter of months. That’s why even some pet-loving landlords don’t allow any pets at all.

    I haven’t seen any children ruining expensive hardwood flooring, but maybe that’s because they aren’t home alone all day.

    Could pets become a protected class? Following the pet food poisoning story, pet owners are finding that their beloved companions have only property status and their losses don’t qualify for pain-and-suffering civil remedies. That could change in the future, because pets are some people’s children. For now, landlords can establish a pet policy that discriminates againsts any or all animals.

  11. I am a total dog lover and I wouldn’t rent to people who own cats, dogs, or kids, if given the choice. They all do major damage.

    I love my dogs but their not perfect. Probably why we own for a long time.

    Children ruin hardwood floors by setting them on fire. They also make huge dents in the floor, at our house friends were visiting and the kids pounded the pots and pans into our hardwood floor. And did their parents say anything? No.

    Anyway though I guess I’m a hypocrite for owning two dogs and not wanting to rent to people who own dogs, or have kids for that matter.

  12. I’m glad at least some people got the humor in the post. I just wanted to make a point with the article. Both pets and children can damage a property, yet only one can be discriminated against – why?

    As for those of you who were offended by the post . . . lighten up. It just isn’t worth it to be so stressed out!

    Thanks for all the great comments and please keep them coming!


  14. Daisy –
    1. Typing in all caps is bad etiquette
    2. Clearly you’re not a reader of this blog and don’t know the sense of humor of the author (me). Relax . . . the post was half-serious/half-ridiculus.
    3. You hit some good points there.

  15. Humerous article, though I do know that both kids and pets can be VERY destructive! I have two toddlers and a very large German Shepherd, and neither is permitted to be destructive. Sure, accidents happen, but if it is a pattern of behavior, then the parents/pet owner need to take responsiblity and do something to change their child’s/pet’s behavior. Neiter my husband nor me were allowed to destroy furniture, etc. as children.

    That being said, a landlord should be able to rent or not rent to whomever they please. Heck, considering some of the college students that I’ve lived next door to, I would not want to rent to them! Talk about destruction! One appartment had to be completely rennovated when they moved out. Everyone had a different idea about who would be an ideal tennant, so they should be allowed to pick the type of person they want to rent to without worrying about lawsuits.

  16. I’d rather live with, or next door to, 12 dogs than 12 stroppy teenagers anytime. Dogs lives revolve around a coherent social structure – teenagers duuh, what was the question!

  17. SavingKitCat on

    As a cat owner personally I would rather put up with a quiet non barking, screaming, violent cat than children or dogs. Cats may pee on grass but so do dogs and kids. So as a landlord I would rather allow pets than kids.

  18. Yeah, kids can and will get on your nerves, but animals do also. You can not compare animals with a human being simply put.

  19. Very good post, but lemme tell you this, day will come when you are old and dying, WILL WILL YOUR PETS CRY FOR YOU WILL THEY REMEMBEER YOU.. NOO but your kids and family will talk about you and remember you..

    My 2 cents

  20. I’m not a big fan of pets and generally enjoy other peoples pets (kind of like kids) but discrimination on any level (pet or human) is not right. =(

  21. I have dogs and it’s always been hard to rent with them. I won;t ever be one of those people that gives them up just for a better apartment though, eventually I have always found someone willing to give us a chance.

    It’s the pet owners that let their animal destroys rental that make it hard for all of us.

    Personally I’d rent to someone with pets before I’d rent to someone with small kids.

  22. This is a typical left wing waco idea. This person wants to LEGISLATE people’s tastes and preferences. No owner of real estate should ever (and will never) be forced to accept animals. Animals have certain rights that protect them from abuse, but they are not guranteed fair housing. I thought I have heard it all, but I guess not.

  23. I would NEVER, EVER rent any of my properties to ANYONE with children. NEVER, EVER. Just rent out studios and one-bedrooms, and you can restrict the rental to one person. Solves the problem. I would MUCH rather rent to 2 adults with 2 cats than to a single breeder sow with one human larva. Shudder. I can just hear the property value plummeting. Yikes!!

  24. A property owner should have the right to NOT rent to tenants with children. Too many parents nowadays allow their kids to do whatever they please with no discipline. They teach them that its OK to be noisey, rude, destructive with no concern for others rights. The news is full of stories of kids burning down homes playing with matches. If I was a Landlord I would choose a no child tenant.

  25. Dogs and cats are both good. But it’s the owners who are at fault. I happen to own three animals (a cat, a pom-a-poo dog, and a poodle). They are all spayed and neutered. And we brush them twice a day and bathe them. We are caught up on shots and vaccinations and we have trained them. Even the cat who is not declawed is trained. I don’t think that disciplining an animal is abuse but required although there are some people who would have said I was abusive because I did discipline, but my dogs are the best behaved and very social dogs unlike my neighbors who talk to their dogs like they are little babies and let them run all over the place and potty on the carpet.
    http://www.abuselaws.com is a great site with videos about animal abuse news.

  26. Both pets and children are destructive. The main difference is that pets wear out normal things like carpet or scratch on doors. Children on the other hand are capable of destroying most anything.

    Now I’m not sure pets are clearly superior, but you do make some valid points.

  27. As a landlord who loves pets, -I own 3 cats myself- I do agree with the poster who stated it is an economic question.

    Frankly I would prefer to not rent to tenants with pets. But,,, then you would exclude a large portion of prospective tenants, so I do accept pets.
    (Except dogs on “the list”)
    (I once had an applicant with THREE (3) Great Danes wanting to rent a small 2 bedroom house. LOL! Nice dogs, usually, but imagine the damage they would have done to the backyard? LOL!

    I have read though, that there are landlords who will only allow cats if the owner declaws them 🙁 I’d like the ASPCA to get involved in those cases. 🙁

    And kids?? Yep. I’d like to reject them if I could… But given a choice from a cat or a smaller dog and a kid….. I’d go with the pet.


  28. I am a pet owner trying to find an apartment in boston to allow my german shepherd. Let me tell you, It is a very difficult task. I have much experience with cats and dogs and am pretty weathered in training them. Yes, pets do make noise, make occasional messes and can cause allergic reactions to some people. Children often make noise and messes also. I really don’t see any other comparisons. Its ridiculous for landlord to not rent to a parent. I agree with you when you say that pet owners should not be discriminated against because they have a larger animal. My shep is a heck of a lot quieter (and less destructive) than my chihuahua, but my small animals are allowed. It really makes no sense. I think that a change needs to be made. I think that landlords should at least interview a pet before they say no pets allowed. Maybe there would even be less shelter animals?

    Its a win-win situation to me.

  29. I love dog. Dog is loyal pet. The loyality is better than human…Besides, dog guard our house for free. Just a bag of dog’s food for a week.

  30. As I can’t determine on a first hand basis which is less destructive in a rental as I don’t have a pet or a child (although given the choice, I would choose a pet), I do know as someone who has been in about 10 rentals in the same amount of years, kids seem to be much more of a problem. Now, with that being said, I blame the parents more than I blame the children. I have been putting up with screaming, banging, crying and jumping from the two toddlers upstairs for a year and a half now (3am seems to be a popular time for them to have blood curdling temper tantrums). It is beyond ridiculous and there is nothing the landlord can do except repeatedly ask them to be quiet. Can you kick a tenant out for being a bad parent? Do we legally have a right to break our lease for having to live with the constant noise? I have seen children rip up flowers beds, pee on carpets and furniture, color on walls, tear up drapery, etc. Pets, if trained properly and kept on leashes when on the grounds, usually don’t cause that much damage…but again that is more of the owner’s responsibilty than the pet’s. Maybe parents should crate their children and put them on leashes (kidding folks, don’t get yourself in a tiffy)…all I’m trying to say is that given the right parenting or training, neither group should be discriminated against.

  31. Its easy to arm chair this one but…Ive had to rip out carpets and baseboards. Clean up major magic marker and crayon marks. Replace lawn grass. Replace doors and jambs. Pick up over one hundred feces from a living room rug, and on and on due to both animals and children WITHOUT PROPER ADULT SUPERVISION.
    Enough said.

  32. I absolutely agree with this article about discrimination. I am currently a law student and have studied landlord property law and think it is ridiculous that landlords are not allowed to say that they don’t want children living there, but yet many people discriminate against pets. I own my own home, am in my 20s, married with no children. I allow people to bring their pets here, but not children, because pets are more obedient, more loving and cause less damage to the objects in my house. True, dogs, cats and other animals can make noise or messes, but babies scream at all hours of the night and day. A 3 month old dog can be taught not to pee in the house, or to stop barking when told “No” but things like that take years for children to learn, and once they hit those teenage years, it’s like they’ve completely forgotten that the world does not revolve around them. A dog will never tell you he hates you, whereas you may care for a child for years, tend to his every need, allow him to take soccer lessons, give him unconditional love, but one day you will just not be good enough for him. That doesn’t happen with animals. Humans have to remember that they need to SHARE this planet with other creatures and no, we are not superior to them simply because we have a different form of intellectual thought process. You want to talk about who leaves a bigger mess? Look at all the pollution in the world and the problems with the ozone layer! Dogs and cats didn’t do that. There are hundreds of thousands of species and the one, count it – ONE, that has completely ruined this planet is humans. I’d rather have a dog living in my home ANY day. When comparing who is cleaner, quieter, more loving, more respectful, more obedient…..animals win, hands down.

  33. I found this page out of frustration. I’m having a lot of problems finding a nice apartment that will allow my 60 lb lazy dog. He has never done anything to any house or apartment we’ve lived in. My 3 year old daughter on the other hand… destroys anything and everything.

  34. It is a tricky situation and varies from tenant to tenant. I have a cat myself and the complex i am currently living in does not allow pets. Even in the owner occupied townhouses. It is the most stupid and outrageous thing i have ever heard of. When you buy a house you expect it to be yours to do what you want with. I have friends who have two very noisy dogs that have completely destroyed the yard of their rental property. It seems silly that they can get their dogs approved over me- with my very clean, non destructive, well trained cat. When i finally do become a Landlord i will be allowing cats, not dogs or children and any damage will be the sole responsibility of the owner. I think it is a bit silly that pets are generally not allowed, because just like children when well trained they are generally not destructive. Children are far more likely not to keep the peace between neighbours with all the racket they make on a regular basis- and the problem with them is, neighbours can’t complain about someones kid chucking 3 tantrums a day. I think Landlords in general need to loosen their stiff upper lip when it comes to pets- all tenants are required to pay bond and generally won’t want the place destroyed because after all, they have to live there too!

  35. You are a total idiot. Cat piss can ruin any surface let alone you can’t get the smell out. You are going to compare animals to kids? Get a grip! I was looking for info on tenant law and came across this article, what a total moron you are. I bet if you had your way you would charge a kid deposit. If someone does damage the rental I am sure with a sufficient walk through before and after you will cover yourself. I hope you don’t produce any kids cause if you do if they spill anything on the floor you will probalby treat them like an animal.

  36. I’m confused, Teresa. Who are you calling a moron here? Seems like you’ve got some anger issues…. there’s no reason to be so nasty, regardless of who you’re talking to.

    Thanks to all the others for your comments.

  37. Pets are great. They are always pleased to see you, and cheer you up if you’re feeling down. A real tonic. If you love them, you put up with the mess or accept you have to clean up after them sometimes. A bit like children in that respect. But pets won’t let you down or dissappoint, take drugs or bleed you dry.
    There are no bad pets, just bad owners, but it’s understandable that in some places they are not welcome. Our lives would be poorer without pets.

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  39. Yes, there are no bad pets just bad owners. Animals are great, they give you unconditional love, and cheer you up after a hard day. To be honest children these days scare me. Give me a cat any day.

  40. Wow, really. Gee Sparky, let’s use some common sense real quick, shall we. I agree with others, that it’s the owners/parents that are the problem not pet/child. First of all if your child sets hardwood floors on fire then your parenting skills should serious be evaluated and your child placed in a safer setting. Second, when you go to work you take your child to school and you have to leave your pet at your dwelling. Lastly all adults, whether you like kids or not, should remember that you were once a child; and there are always going to be children as long as humans exist(good reason to keep them around, too).

  41. As I professional dog trainer and father of 4 I can testify that dogs are much much easier to train!!! Great article! I am so glad that someone has taken the time to point out these facts. My german shepherds have definitely never started a fire! LOL

  42. I just wanted to say that I liked your article. I’m one of those different people that don’t have any desire to have children, and love my husky, Trinity. She’s a pain in the butt, but I guarantee you that she will never be as expensive as a child because her toys don’t go up in price with age, she will never use color crayons on the walls, and will love me ten fold. I’m trying to do a persuasive speech on why animals are better than children and that’s why I found your article. It’s too bad that people with pets have a hard time finding a rental home, and it’s too bad that people allow their children and pets to destroy valuable properties. But it’s true that the tenant needs to be the responsible one. Kudos for having a cute yet concerned article.

  43. Hello,

    I Googled “Advocates for tenants with pets” and found your article. Thank you so much for posting this.

    As many here, I am struggling myself. I have a very small, well-behaved dog. I work from home on my computer and she pretty much either sleeps next to my feet all day in her bed or sits on my lap. She never leaves my side. For personal reasons, I have her with me constantly. I am needing to move to a new apartment and have difficulty finding anything reasonable. It seems like most landlords/leasing companies have learned they can cash-in on the “pet owner lotto” so most accept pets, but the fees and rent that they charge are so astronomical, I don’t know how anyone can afford them.

    While I realize the Fair Housing Act could assist me, I have learned that a landlord can STILL charge an initial deposit or fee, just not pet rent. The fee that would be charged to me would be $500.00, and it would be non-refundable. I simply cannot afford this, but my problems have been unrelieved by every other measure that I have taken to relieve my issues. The dog has afforded me the closest thing to a normal life than anything else has.

    As you can see, I am afraid to get a letter from my medical provider in order to have her placed on my lease. I am terrified that by following the rules, I’m actually going to hurt myself because I’ll be “red flagged” and will either have to pay $500 (I don’t know how since I don’t have it) or fight a bitter and possibly expensive court battle with my landlord. I do not have the emotional capacity to deal with a fight right now.

    Aside from my personal circumstances, I would like to say that I realize animals can do damage. However, like many of you are saying, there are no bad pets or children, just neglectful/bad parents and owners. Even still, occasional damage can take place by either one. This is why we can be charged for damages. This is why landlords have the right to take people to court for destroying property. Unfortunately, they have learned how to abuse their “rights” and the court system. If they are collecting fees, deposits, rent, and in the case of a friend of mine… charging for damages (that were non-existent) on top of all of these charges and refusing to apply fees to the alleged damages, they are just cashing in.

    Some people can’t have children for physical, economic, or other reasons. They choose to have an animal or two. I’m not saying we should give animals legal fair housing rights, but I AM saying that the humans who want/need these animals shouldn’t be required to jump through hoops mentally, legally, emotionally and financially (and STILL have to worry if they’re efforts will be accepted or if they will worsen their situation) just because they aren’t in a position to have their own home for one reason or another.

    If damage is incurred, regardless of who/what caused it, the person on the lease should be responsible for it, period. If no damage is incurred, I cannot see the justice in paying in advance for it, especially making it “non-refundable.” That would be like me, as a tenant, saying “since you are directly debiting rent from my account, I’m going to make you give me a $2,000 non-refundable fee in case you debit more than you should at any time. But I still won’t give it back to you when my lease ends… because I don’t want to. It goes both ways here, folks.

    I would be more than happy to be part of the group who starts advocating for the rights of animal owners.

  44. I love my pets very much. But I have to say, my daughter has never done ANY of those things, with the possible exception of climbing on the furniture. She certainly doesn’t attack people! And she did not hurt the furniture. The cats, on the other hand, have destroyed the very first couch and recliner we were ever able to buy new. And with this economy, we are stuck with holey furniture. I have foster cats, and they decided that peeing under a certain desk was so much fun that we have to keep the whole house segregated now, and my own cat, who is an excellent litter box and scratching post user, can’t come sit in my lap while I work.

    Honestly, if you do not have children, I don’t know why you think you know how they truly behave. But any child that acts the way you describe is clearly not being raised right, and probably won’t change that much when they grow up.

    I would rent to a couple with children anytime – pets would require a deposit.

  45. Boy… some folks sure are touchy, aren’t they? 🙂 Don’t worry, Joshua, some of us got the humor and enjoyed it quite a bit. Some pets and pet owners can be pretty annoying, but it seems more and more parents are opting out of the actual act of parenting, and expect the world to accommodate them. I’d choose the all pet apartment over the all children apartment any day.

  46. You have a nice sense of humor, Joshua.

    But jokes aside, I really dislike pets. It surprises me, however, that the majority of all tenants have them. I grew up not having pets, so I thought it was normal to not live with a cat or dog. Seems like 85% of the people I see as tenants ask about pet deposits.

  47. OMG this is so true. I had to find a condo that would let me have my dog, it’s kinda scary. My kids when they were younger used to write on the walls, get playdough stuck in the carpet, spill RED koolaid on the carpet and so much more. But the worse my dog does is pee. (Luckily he is really laid back!)

  48. As the owner of a pet sitting company I COMPLETELY agree. I have 3 children, and I hate to admit it, but taking care of a dozen pets at once is nothing compared to 3 human boys =)

  49. Joshua, I like your article. For some people, their pets ARE their children. But I think pets and kids can be equally destructive to property. It really boils down to how the parents or the owners raise their charges. Unfortunately, parenting skills, whether on children or pets, can be hard to evaluate.