Wanted: Professional greeter for luxury apartment community. Appropriate candidates will have excellent people skills and a consistently positive, can-do attitude. Must be available to live on-site with property management staff and work days, nights, and weekends. Additional requirements include four legs, a furry coat, and an incessantly wagging tail.

Though the preceding ad was never actually placed, the recruitment of Metro, a West Highland terrier and Forest City Residential's first property mascot at Metro 417 in Los Angeles, was nonetheless 100 percent for real. While traveling in Colorado, Forest City vice president Cindy Wick met a similar canine greeter at a Monaco hotel and thought a live mascot would be an excellent way to prove to customers back in L.A. that Forest City doesn't just “check the box” when it comes to accepting pets—they accept them with open arms.

“We want people to know that we realize how important pets are—that they are part of our families,” Wick says. “If we have a customer that is looking at several of our competitors, what can we show them that is different? If we are going to be pet-friendly then let's have a dog in the building that is a greeter and permanent resident that warms the space up. We are going to be memorable.”

PARTY ANIMALS: Metro, a property pet mascot, greets and entertains prospective tenants, signaling that pets are welcome.

PARTY ANIMALS: Metro, a property pet mascot, greets and entertains prospective tenants, signaling that pets are welcome.

Metro is just one example of how multifamily firms are getting serious about embracing pets as part of a larger amenities, customer service, and sales strategy. And indeed they should: A March 2007 survey by Apartments.com found that 84.4 percent of apartment renters owned a pet. Of those renters, 35.2 percent reported that it was very difficult to find an apartment they liked that also allowed for their furry little loved ones.

PET WHISPERERS

“Everyone in L.A. loves pets,” agrees Veronique Ledoux, a property manager at Lincoln Property Co.'s Mozaic Designer Apartments, just up the road from Metro 417. “Owning pets is obviously important to people, and we want everyone to be as happy as they can be.” At Mozaic, Ledoux conducts 20-minute “interviews” with pets and their owners applying to become residents. In addition to gauging the general disposition of the dog or cat, Mozaic managers take a photo of the animal and get a copy of updated vaccination records from a vet. “We obviously do the interviews to make sure that the animals are nice [and] that they are well-mannered, but we are also trying to see if the pet owner has control or if the pet is running the show.”

Pet interviews aren't strictly left coast, either. Both the American Kennel Club and the Humane Society of the United States include a pet interview as part of broader certification programs tailored to approving animals for multifamily living.

“You really just want to give the manager a chance to meet the pet, check its disposition, get a reference from the vet, and take a photo for your files,” says Greg Spezzano, director of marketing at Phoenix-based Alliance Residential Co. He discovered the Humane Society's program at a National Apartment Association conference while working for Lincoln Property Management and has since encouraged its use across Alliance's portfolio.

The kennel club operates 7,000 training centers across the country and is willing to host training sessions at multifamily properties. Key to the group's Canine Good Citizen program is the signing of a “Responsible Dog Owner's Pledge,” which states the owner will be responsible for the dog's health, safety, and quality of life and—property managers take note—will never let the dog infringe on the rights of others. “The pledge specifies what it means to be a responsible dog owner,” explains Canine Good Citizen director Mary Burch, who is also a certified applied animal behaviorist.

“Don't let your dog bark incessantly, clean up after your dog, [and] use a leash in public places,” she advises, noting that failure to do so “will result in dogs no longer being welcome in apartments, condos, and neighborhoods.” “When dogs are not welcome, we all lose,” she says.

RISK V. REWARDS

Inviting pet specialists such as the kennel club, the Humane Society, and grooming providers, as well as offering doggy day care, are great ways to promote pet friendliness on-site while also building community and networking with local businesses.