As a landlord, what can I do to ensure that my property will not be damaged by a tenant's pet if I decide to rent to a pet owner?

Today more than 50 percent of all American households include a dog or cat as a family member.

As a building manager, landlord or unit owner evaluating a potential tenant, you consider a number of important factors, ranging from a tenant's financial stability and ability to pay a monthly rent, to wear and tear on rental property. Many landlords automatically reject potential renters who have pets, regardless of how responsible and conscientious the pet owner is.

The Pets are Wonderful Council suggests that you use the following checklist to determine whether a pet-owning prospect is going to be a responsible tenant, before discounting their eligibility based only on the fact that they own a pet:

1 - What is the tenant's past experience as a pet-owning renter? Request letters of reference from previous landlords.

2 - Is the tenant's pet well-behaved and leash-trained? Ask to "interview" the pet as well as the prospective tenant. A single meeting with tenant and pet should give you a clear indication of the pet's temperament.

3 - Is the pet spayed or neutered? A responsible pet owner will be concerned not only with the pet overpopulation problem but also the health benefits to the animal, and will have had this procedure performed. In addition, an altered cat or dog is more docile and less likely to create a nuisance than one that is not.

4 - Does the pet have all its current inoculations? A responsible pet owner will always keep his/her pet's health care up to date.

5 - If the pet is a dog, is it licensed? A dog wearing a license tag is an indication that the owner is a responsible person.

6 - Does the pet owner have a regular veterinarian? If so, you should ask to contact him/her for a reference on the pet and its owner.

7 - Is the pet housebroken? A cat should be litter-trained and a dog should be housebroken.

8 - Does the pet owner have a litter cleanup device? This is a good indication of how conscientious the owner will be.

9 - How old is the pet? An older pet sleeps most of the time and needs relatively little exercise.

10 - Will more than one pet live in the apartment? Two cats or a dog and a cat will keep each other company while their owner is at work.

11 - Will the pet owner pay a refundable pet deposit? A refundable deposit (an amount equal to half a month's rent is reasonable) should not pose a hardship. An owner who knows he's responsible should have no hesitation paying a refundable deposit.

These simple guidelines should help you determine how responsible a pet owner will be as a tenant. The majority of pet owners are good, responsible tenants who are as concerned as you are about keeping the condition of a unit and common areas in top shape. It's far better to rent to a good tenant who happens to own a pet than a bad, negligent tenant who doesn't.

If you would like more information on this subject, Animal Services offers a free pamphlet, the Landlord's Guide to Urban Pets.

If you have a question about health, behavior problems, laws, etc., regarding wild or domestic animals, please write Leslie Kelson-Probert, Salt Lake County Animal Services, 511 W. 3900 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84123 or call her at 264-2247.