Dog Friendly Florida Businesses and Rentals


Matlacha Island Photo: Kelly Dean

Dog Friendly Florida Businesses and Rentals

Florida is generally pet-friendly. And Florida is hot. It would seem cruel (and bad business practice) to prohibit pets if you can accommodate them in the Sunshine State. People shouldn’t and won’t leave their pets in a car, even with the air conditioning running full blast. People parking nearby will hate you instantly and it might be justified. In some cases, they might break your windows, regardless of the clever note you taped to the window. Concerned citizens might tape a clever note of their own to your car starting something like, “If you can’t account for your pet’s comfort, then why do you own one?”

In a place as warm as Florida, and outdoor seating common at many restaurants, it frankly doesn’t make sense for Florida to be unaccommodating.

dog11-customI’ll walk through a few situations and give you some of my firsthand experience with business owners and landlords in respect to pets. The word Pets and pet-friendly in this article generally refer to dogs and cats in residential housing and eating establishments. Dogs for special-needs folks are allowed about everywhere in my experience.

As local governments determine the rules for public beaches, it’s in a separate article found here.

Businesses and landlords who choose not to allow pets are taking a calculated business risk and I’m sure they take pet-friendliness into consideration, knowing people who are relocating care about their pets like a memeber of the family. There are several questions to consider: if these are big dogs, are they going to disturb people or smaller pets? Do I provide an area outside only? Must my employees or amenities service the pet’s needs as well? Do I differentiate between long-haired, short-haired pets, large and small pets? What percentage of my visitors will be encouraged or discouraged from patronizing my business due to my pet policies?


This is the No. 1 question pet owners are interested in knowing: where are pet-friendly restaurants? First, restaurants that pride themselves on being pet friendly will brag about it in their marketing. So they can be frequently found with an internet search in most cases. I know of a local restaurant that named itself “The Dog” and they allow pets inside despite having outdoor seating as well. It doesn’t get more dog-centric than that.

But what if you are looking for something quick and nearby? If you own a small dog, restaurants with outdoor seating are quite likely to let you dine with your pet outside. So as you’re driving by, simply look around for restaurants with outside eating areas and politely ask if them if it’s OK. If the restaurant is a stand-alone property, it is even more likely they’ll love your doggy. Having the dog on a lease is generally expected, but some don’t even require this courtesy. I consider using a leash polite — and I’ll leave it at that.

Some might have special seating areas and ask you to relocate, and some might ask you to tie the pet up just outside the seating area. I’ve found both OK, so long as there’s shade and I could seat myself adjacent to the tie-up area, usually some kind of gapped fencing. Asking for a small bowl of water is common in dog-friendly establishments. It is Florida, after all. In fact, there are likely many others around you doing the same. As mentioned, it is considered good form to have the pet on a leash and assumed you will tie the pets leash to the table leg at your feet. This assures the server they will not get into other patron’s business. My dog just lies down and behaves nicely tied in the table shade.

Note: pets are sometimes prohibited by local ordinances; although, I have found some restaurants use this as an excuse when such ordinances don’t actually exist or apply. Buyers beware.

Pets in a rentalpuppy2-custom

If you are renting a single-family home, your odds of the landlord being pet-friendly are somewhat better than 50 percent, in my experience. But you will pay a pet fee. These landlords realize this is an opportunity to get good, stable renters, and this offsets most fear that the pet will create wear and tear on the property. These rental houses frequently have all hard surface flooring anyway, whether tile or wood, and this hard surface mitigates the landlords’ fears as it pertains to pet odor. Some of these houses will have fenced lawns as well.

In a duplex, the odds drop to about 50/50 in my experience. Duplexes generally have a single car garage and are generally not fenced in back, although a fence-divided backyard does appear once in a while. One would have to specifically look for it.

The words “apartment” and “condo” are frequently used interchangeably in Florida, depending upon the type of renter the landlord or real estate agent is trying to attract. Among Floridians, there are distinct differences between these two property types, but landlords and realtors who are advertising them are generally trying to increase their odds through numbers, if they a marketing savvy. Generally, condos provide more property-care amenities than apartments and fetch a slightly higher lease amount accordingly. But this can get blurry.

dog-head2-customFrankly, apartment settings allow pets if the surrounding area is conducive to allowing pets to go outside. It’s generally considered good etiquette to clean up after your pet anyway; so again, allowing pets increases the likelihood the landlord will get renters. But multi-unit apartment complexes are a mixed bag when it comes to pets. I would encourage the renter to check the listing and inquire before setting a showing. Hopefully, the pictures in the listing will show the exterior as well and keep you from making a wasted trip.

The term “condo” is used to market to an older group who might be more economically stable and therefore, a better quality renter in the eyes of a landlord. Simply put, I consider condos to be designed and marketer to someone who is willing to pay a bit more to be carefree; therefore, the properties tend to be a bit nicer. I once asked a real estate agent what his definition of a good tenant might be. He replied, “Pay your rent on time (long pause) and that’s about it.” I’m sure nuisance calls and police appearances might be problematic as well, but evidently they are somewhat down the list.

Because condos are marketed toward that older crowd, it’s more likely they would own a pet, whereas a 20-something engaged in their career might not. Also, the 20-something is not in the condo marketing profile, and neither is the small family, so like single-family houses, they are about 50/50 when it comes to pets. Generally, the more high-rise the condo, the less likely they allow pets. In one or two story, single and multi-unit condos, they are frequently equipped for pets.

Again, remember to clean up after you pet when it does No. 2. That courtesy should go without saying but it’s sometimes ignored nonetheless. Just keep a couple of zip-lock bags on you and you will be well-equipped.

In summary

I like pet-friendly businesses. I think it’s good for businesses and I think it requires little effort on the part of the business itself. I understand that some people are allergic to pets and this should be considered. I also understand that it is an oddity that people might be forced to smoke tobacco only in outdoor areas, although many nearby patrons might have a right to eat outdoors without smoke mixing with their fresh air too. It’s kind of a turf war without words — and a bit of a conundrum.

Good signage and clear marketing would fix this, for all parties. That way, a patron can make an informed choice.

Images: clipartlord

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