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Over the years, breed bans have been as much a part of the multifamily living experience as on-site pools and fitness centers.

However, while the two amenities serve to attract new residents and compel current ones to renew, breed bans push renters away.

Sometimes, these bans are in place because of general liability insurance requirements, but not all insurance companies have breed restrictions (more on that later).

The truth is that the universe of potential renters is filled with responsible owners of loving, well-behaved pit bulls, German shepherds, and Doberman pinschers—to name a few commonly banned breeds—but antiquated policies deprive operators of these quality residents and lead to much stress and frustration for renters looking for their next home. Heartbreakingly, it’s not unheard of for a resident to have to give up their beloved companion if they can’t find an apartment that will accommodate their pet.

Just as frustrating as their consequences is the fact that these bans are based on the myth that certain breeds are inherently dangerous. That’s right: When you take the time to investigate the matter, you’ll see that breed bans are built on a foundation of sand.

According to the Experts

In 2022, a study published in the journal Science made headlines when it showed that a dog’s breed is not a good predictor of its personality and behavior. The research demonstrates “that almost none of the behaviors we associate with dog breeds—from lovable Labradors to pugnacious pit bulls—are hard-wired,” says a summary article on the journal’s website. “Aside from a few ancient traits, environment seems to play a much larger role than pedigree.”

The study complemented positions staked out by various organizations over the years.

For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes state and local laws banning breeds. On its website, AVMA says, “Breed-specific legislation is discriminatory against responsible owners and their dogs.”

The association adds: “Breed bans do not address the social issue of irresponsible pet ownership. Dogs are more likely to become aggressive when they are unsupervised, unneutered, and not socially conditioned to live closely with people or other dogs. Banning a specific breed can give a community a false sense of security, and deemphasize to owners of other breeds the importance of appropriate socialization and training, which is a critical part of responsible pet ownership.”

In explaining its opposition to such laws, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (ASPCA) to Animals struck similar notes. “There is no evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer for people or companion animals,” ASPCA says. “Following a thorough study of human fatalities resulting from dog bites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided to strongly oppose [breed-specific laws].”

Many property managers simply assume their general liability insurance has specific breed exclusions. This certainly could be the case, but, in many instances, it's an erroneous assumption. And even if the carrier does require breed bans, there are many insurance companies that do not have pet breed restrictions. The practice of limiting your renter pool just because of your current insurance company’s pet breed restrictions can be easily overcome with some new insurance quotes and a new insurance provider. The Management Group, Oculus Realty, and Milhaus are among the operators that have eliminated both breed and weight restrictions over the years.

The Harm of Breed Bans

Today’s apartment residents value their pets more than ever before. According to a recent study by Cortland, a property’s pet policies are the top priority for pet-owning apartment shoppers, outranking factors like cost and location. And there are lots of pet-owning renters. Approximately 70% of U.S. households own a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association.

Blanket breed restrictions mean apartment communities are unnecessarily limiting their pool of potential renters. Breed bans also can lead to fraudulent assistance animal accommodation requests, since pet restrictions don’t apply to approved assistance animals (operators also can’t charge pet rent or other pet fees for approved assistance animals). This is no surprise: According to PetScreening’s review of over 500,000 reasonable accommodation requests, three of the top five assistance animal breed types are also commonly banned pet breeds.

To maximize their appeal to today’s renters and experience the business benefits of being pet-inclusive, such as increased retention rates, apartment operators should consider reducing or eliminating their breed restrictions. They can still protect themselves by carefully screening pets and pet owners on an individual basis to determine if they pose any risk and make decisions about accepting the household accordingly. Higher pet rents and fees also can be charged for pets and owners that represent more household-related risk to the property manager and asset owner.

Apartment communities should also consider partnering with local trainers and organizations to offer dog owners training and classes that encourage and develop responsible pet ownership.

In some ways, working in multifamily is about a never-ending quest to improve and modernize the resident living experience. Cutting-edge amenities such as smart-home technology and package delivery systems are in place as a result. In their efforts to woo the modern renter, owners and operators should consider making their breed restrictions a thing of the past.

This is the sixth installment of a monthly series by John Bradford. Previous topics include resident retention through pet inclusiveness; the state of pets in multifamily in 2023, the rise of pet-centric amenities, rethinking pet breed and weight restrictions, and navigating fraudulent accommodation requests for assistance animals.