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6 tips for renting with a pet on Long Island

Veronica Pizarro and her daughter, Katherina, hold their

Veronica Pizarro and her daughter, Katherina, hold their dogs, Ricky, Tammy and Coco, outside their Levittown apartment. Credit: Barry Sloan

Let’s face it, moving can be stressful. For pet owners, of course, there’s added concern. Most see dogs and cats as part of the family, but landlords often refuse to allow anything with fur or a tail to live on the premises. Some ask for a surcharge, higher rent or additional security. What’s a pet lover to do?

Although it can be difficult landing the right pad should there be a hairy family member, persistence can eventually turns up a suitable living arrangement. Getting an early start on the search is a key oft cited by Long Islanders who have successfully negotiated pet-friendly moves. Here are several more.

NARROW THE SEARCH

“It’s difficult to find an apartment on Long Island that allows pets, but opportunities are out there,” says Joe Slaninka, 47, an assistant teacher from Holbrook. Slaninka, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, lives in a one-bedroom Heatherwood Complex apartment with his wife, Nicol, and tabby cats Cleo and Grayson.

“We had to find a place to accommodate both my wheelchair and our pets,” explains Slaninka, “We searched online specifically for apartments listed as pet friendly. It took three months, but it was worth the effort.”

Slaninka notes you can expect to pay extra for having pets at most apartment complexes. He currently pays $50 extra per cat each month plus $1,714 rent. No additional security money was required for the cats.

HISTORY HELPS

“The surest way to get an apartment with your pets is to have a good recommendation from the last landlord,” says Giovanna Ferraro, 32, of West Babylon. Ferraro, a field applications specialist for a medical company, lives with her roommate, Monica, on the lower level of a residential home with her German short-hair cat, George, and a tabby, Ty. “Those recommendations might also help you negotiate or eliminate pet fees,” she adds. Ferraro had to pay an extra half-month security for her pets but does not pay a monthly fee. Her monthly rent is $2,700.

Making a good first impression helps, too, notes Ferraro. “Don’t be covered in cat or dog hair when meeting a potential landlord," she says. "Get a lint brush and use it. Groom your pet before any meeting, too.”

VISIT THE VET

“Go to the vet and ensure all shots for your pets are up to date,” says Christina Tormey, 36, of East Marion, a charterboat fishing mate and past veterinary technician. “If the vet has known your pet for some time, ask for a letter of recommendation, too. That sealed the deal at my previous apartment, in Sound Beach.”

Even with all that on your side, you might still need to get creative. When Tormey decided Dozer, an 80-pound lab, and Munchk, her cat, needed bigger living quarters, she started searching immediately. “Most places wanted an extra $100 per month for the cat, but wouldn’t take my dog,” she says. “That was discouraging.”

Eventually, Tormey moved in with her boyfriend, Rick. The couple, along with their pets, now thrives in an apartment at Rick’s parents' house and are saving up to buy a home of their own. 

DON'T BE SHY

“Don’t wait until you’re out of options — ask friends and family first,” says Veronica Pizarro, 57, a self-employed housecleaner who lives with her daughter, Katherina, 23, in Levittown. She has two Yorkies  (Ricky and Tammy), plus a poodle (Coco) living in her one-bedroom apartment, which costs $1,100 per month. She pays an additional $150 total each month for her pets.

“I was running out of time to move from my former apartment and told my daughter we might have to find a shelter for our dogs," she says. "Then I asked a friend, and it turned out he rented apartments. Problem solved. You could call it luck, but if you don’t ask, you don’t know who can help. So ask.”

BE A LITTLE FLEXIBLE

Think it’s hard finding a place for a tabby or poodle? Try asking about a bulldog (Max) and a pit bull (Dee Dee). That was Krista Cheri Morton’s dilemma. The 31-year-old tattoo artist and her husband, Steve, currently live in a privately owned house in Medford.

“We wanted to live in Huntington but couldn’t find a place, despite having recommendations and full vet records," she says. "Some people simply won’t consider certain breeds of dog. Eventually, we had to change our plans and look somewhere else. That willingness to be flexible allowed us to find a nice home in Sound Beach.”

Morton also suggests that when meeting the landlord with your pets to get there early so they have time to walk around and calm down. “I moved to California a while back,” she recalls. “We drove cross-country, cross-country skiing with our dogs, and met the landlord right away. Of course, both dogs were going nuts after being cooped up for several days. Luckily, we still got the place.”

EXTEND AN INVITATION

Moving with pets is tough for anyone, but the more pets you have, the fewer options you are likely to find.

“Adding certain breeds of dogs to the mix can also be a problem,” says Tina Visintin, 44, of Mount Sinai. A receptionist in the veterinary field, she lives with her husband, Gregg; youngest son, Tyler; five cats and two rescue dogs, including Vito, a Rottweiler, at a rental that costs $2,400 a month.

“Considering the size of our family,” says Visintin, “we only rent houses. It can be extra hard to find a place that will allow certain breeds of dogs that have been, unfortunately, stereotyped,” she explains. “That Rottweilers can’t be added to homeowner's insurance doesn’t help the cause. We always end up paying an additional $500 to $1,000 security on top of our rent, but at least it keeps the family together.”

One way Visintin has managed to convince landlords to allow Vito to come along is by inviting them to her current home. “I’m surprised they are willing to come, and check things out,” she says, “but if you are moving locally, ask a prospective landlord to stop by, meet your pets, and see how clean and undamaged your current home is. That’s how I got this great place in Mount Sinai.”

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