Only pet owners need apply when Barbara Rogers has a vacancy in her West Los Angeles apartment building. It's a new policy and one that seems to be popular among those frustrated tenants faced with the choice of either getting rid of their pets or losing their apartments, Rogers said.
A plump cat contentedly from its perch on her lap and three small dogs jockeyed for position next to her as Rogers explained how she decided to rent exclusively to people with pets.
An animal lover since she was a child and a member of several animal-protection groups, Rogers said she was appalled when, as a volunteer at the West Los Angeles animal shelter, she discovered that many renters were forced to give up their pets because of apartment regulations.
Rogers' own pets--Pinky the cat, a cockapoo named Daisy Mae, a Lhasa who answers to Cha Cha, and Peppi, a mixed-breed dog that looks something like a cross between a miniature whippet and a Chihuahua--were all acquired through animal shelters. Rogers is convinced that they would have been destroyed if she had not given them a home.
"The idea was really and truly formulated when I knew I was losing two tenants here," she said. Rogers occupies one of the four apartments in her building.
"The man upstairs has a cat and I already have four pets, so I decided to only rent to people with animals," she said.
The message went out via a small newspaper ad that included the words "animals welcome," and by word-of-mouth at a local veterinarians, the West Los Angeles animal shelter and animal protection groups such as the Amanda Foundation. Rogers was swamped with telephone calls, she said.
"I had people offer me a lot more money than I was asking for the apartments. They were just desperate."
Rogers first screened the applicants over the telephone, averaging about 10 calls a day for three days, then continuing at a lesser pace for several months, she said.
"It got to be almost like a lottery, it was so hard to decide."
She selected the applicants who sounded like desirable tenants, then invited them to bring in their pets for an interview.
"You kind of interview an animal by just seeing if the animal is well behaved, if it's mellow. I interviewed two wonderful beagles, but I was afraid to take them. I was afraid of problems with the condominiums next door. I know eagles really bark."
She eventually decided on one tenant with a cat who subsequently adopted a second cat at Rogers' urging, and a second tenant who has a dog.
Rogers said that apartment owners who refuse to rent to pet owners are missing a good bet.
"I know when a pet owners finds an apartment where a landlord takes animals, they never move," she said. "It's so hard to find places with animals. I thnk people who have animals are eager to please a landlord. They take better care of their apartments. And the dogs are wonderful watchdogs. My dogs bark at any sound coming up my driveway.
"I think some of those who don't want to rent to people with animals have been burned. Cats scratching on drapes and furniture, dogs that ruin rugs. They bark and chew up things. It's not the animal's fault. It's the owners who haven't taken the time to train them properly."
Rogers said that apartment owners can protect themselves against inconsiderate pet owners by interviewing the pets, as she does, and by charging an extra security deposit to cover any possible damage.
Mary Douvan of Beverly Realty Enterprises said that Rogers is indeed a rare type of landlady.
"OH my goodness! I think she's admirable," was Douvan's reaction when told of Rogers' newpolicy. Douvan has two Pomeranians, Peaches and Cinnamon. She said she would move rather than give them up.
"I will say that 80% to 90% of the people renting apartments will say no pets. I find that the more expensive the property, the more they are likely to allow pets. You'll usually find that rentals from $500 to $1,000 a month will say no pets. You go into your $3,000 to $5,000 and they are more likely to take them."
Rates on the three apartments Rogers rents are in the first category.
"I have handled some lease and lease-options," Douvan said, "and I've taken in little house pets, a little poodle or Pomeranian. Sometimes I think those little people (pets) are less destructive than adults. I think that people who have pets and find someone like Rogers will take better care of a place. Owners will ask for an additional deposit."
Joe Barnes, who owns a dog, is one of those who applied too late for one of Rogers' rentals. He said he was forced tomove from "the fashionable Westside, on Beverly Glen" because of tenants there who did not care for their pets.
"One family traveled and left their dog alone for two or three days at a time. At that time, the landlady said, "That's it. No more pets."
"I decided tomove. I grew up with dogs and I don't mind taking care of them and training them. I love them. I got this dog about a year ago, when he was about 6 weeks old.
"Dogs are great security. People in the building who didn't have pets were broken into. The apartments with pets were not. It was worth it to me to pay more rent."
Barnes, an assistant manager for a Washington-based company that lobbies for businesses, finally rented a condominium in the mid-Wilshire district.
Marlene Carabello, project consultant for a school district, was one of the lucky applicants to get an apartment in Rogers' building.
"I was so happy, I even took in one of Barbara's strays," she said. "Now I have two cats. I had been smuggling my cat into my old apartment for one year. It finally got to the point where I didn't want to live in fear of the landlord coming. The cat was always perched in the window, so that didn't help.
"It was a fluke that I got the apartment. I met Barb at the vet's and I rented the apartment a couple of months ago, as soon as Barb found out it was going to be vacant. I'm moving in this weekend."
When Barnes was looking for an apartment, he said, he asked Rogers if she knew of any organization of apartment managers or building owners who did rent to pets.
Rogers, who supports herself and her pets by taking care of plants for homes and businesses, checked around with friends in the rental business but none knew of such an association.
Because of the enthusiastic response to her offer to rent to pets, Rogers is trying to set up some sort of network to put pet owners in touch with animal-loving apartment owners. A small fee charged the pet owner would pay the expense of maintaining a telephone service, with the rest going to an animal charity.
"I've been getting two calls a day from people with pets who are looking for apartments, but I don't know how to get the landlords to surface," she said.
Landlords can call Rogers between 3:30 and 6 p.m. at 839-8827.