Guest Post: What it was like moving with my three beloved greyhounds from the US to renting in the UK
We are a nation of dog lovers. There are so many of us that we influence our communities, businesses and animal welfare laws for the better. Compared to a decade ago, we can practically take our dogs with us everywhere now. Soon it will become natural for us to take our dogs with us when we decide it’s time to move into a senior living facility.
When I read an article about the U.K. moving away from its own status as a nation of dog lovers, I thought that it was a good topic to pose to the Grouchy Puppy community on Facebook for comment. One responded with a perspective of being a recent ex-pat to the U.K. with three greyhounds. Because I believe in the positive influence from sharing our personal experiences, I asked Cindi if she’d share a series of guest posts on what it was like for her to move from the US with her dogs, and to answer some questions about what life is like for dog lovers there.
I hope people will learn a little from Cindi's experiences about life across the pond as a renter with big dogs. Take it away Cindi...
The condensed version of my move to the U.K. was, gee, get everyone their vaccinations, ship the dogs over, rent an apartment, pay the pet deposits and easy peasy, right? WRONG. SO. WRONG. When I first moved to Scotland, the entire process brought me to tears several times. I should also point out, large-scale apartment complexes do not exist here like they do in the U.S. For example, you may have a big high-rise building in your city, but only 50% are rented out by agencies or private landlords. Most rentals here are private apartments (more akin to condos) or homes rented out by property management companies on behalf of private landlords. How did all my friends with dogs in various parts of the U.K. do it?
No Pets. No Children. No Families.
Why was I having so much difficulty? Granted, I have big dogs (60-80 lb. range) but it shouldn’t be so hard, right? Apartment and houses alike always had the dreaded words “no pets” in the advertisement. But in a bit of comeuppance, it was equally gratifying to see homes and apartments advertised as “no children” or “no families” meaning they would only rent to professional singles or couples. I was also lucky and in a position to pay 6-12 months of my rent up-front (and as a foreigner, many landlords required this as well) as a bargaining chip to allow my dogs. After some desperation, I used social media to my advantage and lamented my plight to a local reporter, who called me when I was still in the U.S., about the lack of housing (and affordable housing) for pet owners. Thankfully, this article ended up being published, and I was able to use it in “selling” myself to potential landlords!
My Pets are Family!
I found a place on the U.K. version of Craigslist called Gumtree (Craigslist does exist here, but it isn’t as popular) - and sent off a hopeful email with a link to the article that was written. After a few FaceTime calls, and ensuring him my dogs were vaccinated, quiet, etc. I ended up paying 3 months of rent as a pet deposit PLUS last months rent, and 6 months rent UP FRONT. Trust me when I say, this was no $100 pet deposit per pet. I lived in the most expensive city in Scotland and rents were almost as much as London - but I found a place for me and the dogs before I got on the plane! For me, I did what I had to do, as my pets are family and leaving them in the U.S. when I moved to Scotland was not an option. Plus, one of my dogs was very elderly and I couldn’t leave her behind.
Good Reference From Landlord From Good First Impression
After a little over a year in Scotland, I moved down to England. I was very lucky and had a great landlord. I checked regularly with my downstairs neighbor to ensure the dogs were not too noisy (though a few months before I moved, I did have a light-sleeper move in who wasn’t too keen on us all thundering down the stairs at 6am for our morning walks). I was fastidious about keeping my place clean (I do that anyway, pets or not), replacing things my pets damaged (my apartment came furnished, and my elderly dog did ruin the living room rug - which I paid for 100%). When I moved out, I got my entire deposit returned. It was also important because my new landlord was hesitant about pets, but because I had such a good reference from the landlord in Scotland, finding a new place to live outside London was made a bit easier.
For a nation of dog lovers, it’s incredibly difficult to rent in the UK if you have a dog (or cat).
One adoption group, Dogs Trust, operates a program called Lets with Pets (www.letswithpets.org.uk) to help renters, but the downside for me was that it does not cover all areas of the country (such as where I was living in Scotland), otherwise you are essentially on your own. I am lucky. I have dogs that are rated (from a few internet articles) one of the best apartment-friendly dogs (greyhounds) as they do not bark and spend most their time sleeping - all points I shared with my landlords. References from dog trainers/behaviourists that I knew in the U.K. before I moved also helped me demonstrate the easy, non-vicious nature of the breed, as well as my responsibility as a pet owner. It sounds so ridiculous, but again, in the U.K. you don’t have to rent to a family with children either (my small victory).
Have you ever had to move your dogs to another country? What challenges did you face?
Read about the differences of what life is like across the pond when you have a dog, in Cindi's next post!
I have lived all over the US (New York, St. Louis, Kansas, Florida, Maryland/Virginia, Seattle, Denver, Alabama) and was devoted to my cats for years until I got my first greyhound in 2002. After nine months of planning, in 2014 my dogs and I got on a plane and began a most excellent adventure in Scotland with the prospect of an exciting career in the oil industry. Sadly, I lost Evie, my oldest greyhound, age 14yrs, 1mo, 29 days, not long after we moved. Then through a strange turn of events, two dogs suddenly turned back to three when Angus came home about a month after Evie died. It’s still strange. Having older dogs for so long, it has been fun to have a “puppy” again! Downturns in the oil industry not long after we moved resulted in another move “down the road” to England and Ruby, Flash, Angus, and I have been right outside London ever since!
Hitchin, Hertfordshire (just north of London)