With all the pet boutiques and pet-friendly restaurants, hotels and shopping centers popping up it’s easy to forget that our furry friends aren’t always welcomed. Despite Orlando being ranked the No. 1 most pet-friendly city in America by WalletHub last year, the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando (PAGO) noticed a significant need for local pet owners.
According to the organization, which is one of Florida’s oldest and largest animal welfare agencies with locations in Orlando and Sanford, 1,800 pets were surrendered in 2016. Also, 20 percent of the phone calls received daily are from families inquiring about surrendering their pet because of rental property restrictions on breeds and size.
PAGO Executive Director Steve Bardy took the data to heart. “No one should ever have to surrender their pet because they don’t have a home,” he says.
In celebration of PAGO’s 80 years of service, the organization announced its Apartment Registry Program last month. With an overall goal of ending pet homelessness, this initiative aims to expand the number of rental properties that allow dogs and cats regardless of breed or size and assist families in their search for pet-friendly housing options.
The Apartment Registry Program will encourage apartment complexes by educating them of the benefits that these changes can bring. According to a national study by The Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare, this includes longer length of stay and higher rent premium for pet-owner tenants. For complexes on the registry, PAGO is offering direct links on its website, giving recommendations to callers and hosting signage at its facilities.
“Insurance and arbitrary housing restrictions are a major roadblock to adoption and a major factor in people having to relinquish their beloved pets,” says Holly Sizemore, the chief national programs officer for partner organization Best Friends Animal Society.
With the lift of breed and size restrictions, PAGO and Best Friends Animal Society are hoping to see a reduction of surrenders at shelters and increased adoptions for those breeds and sizes that are more commonly restricted.
The Best Friends Animal Society’s No More Homeless Pets Network, a nonprofit organization made up of thousands of shelters, rescue groups and other animal welfare organizations, awarded a $10,000 grant toward PAGO’s new initiative. According to Sizemore, these efforts could be a major game changer in the organization’s mission to “Save Them All.”
The grant will help with recruitment and will go toward the mobile medical vehicles for micro chipping, spaying and neutering, and behavior training at registered pet-friendly complexes.
“Our philosophy has been about encouraging responsible pet ownership as well,” Vice President of Operations Fraily Rodriguez says. “All the services that we are adding on, I think that’s an encouragement to them.”
So far 13 apartment complexes are registered on the PAGO website. The goal is to reach 100 complexes in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.