Some landlords prefer to rent to dog owners, finding them a more responsible class of tenants. Some allow small dogs. And some will make an exception to their usual no dogs rule if they become convinced that they're dealing with a responsible owner—which means that an official no dogs policy isn't always the final word.
If you want to negotiate something with a property owner or manager, be realistic. It's obvious why many landlords are reluctant to rent to dog owners: dogs can cause serious damage to apartments and yards, they can be a nuisance if they bark and a menace if they bite or frighten people. Landlords' concerns are reasonable; they risk losing time and money and, in some instances, may even face legal liability if the dog injures someone.
Deal with these concerns up front. Before agreeing to rent to you and your dog, a landlord has a reasonable right to expect both convincing evidence that the dog won't cause problems, and provisions in the lease or rental agreement that spell out your responsibilities.
Whatever agreement you work out, it should always be clearly set out in writing—no exceptions. If you have a dog, never sign a lease that contains a standard "no pets" clause, even if the owner or manager has offered oral assurances that it's all right to have the dog. If the landlord later reconsiders, or sells the property to a new owner, you could land in the middle of a legal battle. (See "Enforcing a No Pets Clause After Allowing a Dog.")
You can modify a rental agreement or add a separate addendum to cover pets. Here are some clauses you can modify to fit your situation and add to a standard rental agreement or lease.
Several organizations concerned about animals and people have programs to help landlords and dog-owning tenants get along. Project Open Door, an ambitious program of the San Francisco SPCA, seeks to show landlords how to make renting to pet-owning tenants a satisfying and profitable experience. The SPCA offers:
Tenants can get good materials, too, on how to negotiate with a landlord.
Several states, including Arizona, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, and New Jersey give elderly or disabled tenants the right ts to keep pets in either public or private housing. The federal Fair Housing Acts (42 U.S. Code sections 3601-3619, 3631) allow tenants who have a mental or physical disability to keep a properly trained service animal. For more on this subject, see Renting a Place to Live With a Service or Support Dog and Elderly or Disabled Tenants: The Right to Have Pets. If you're unclear about who is considered disabled, see Disabled Renters' Housing Rights.
Special laws may apply to tenants in mobile home parks. For example, in California a mobile home park cannot prohibit pets, and cannot charge a fee for keeping pets unless it actually provides special facilities or services for pets. (Cal. Civ. Code section 798.33.) In Oregon, a tenant may keep a pet that's legally living there, if the landlord adds a no-pets clause to the rules. (Or. Rev. Stat. section 90.350.)