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So you want to make your community pet-friendly…

Posted by Dude Solutions Canada, Inc. | Monday, August 31, 2015

So you want to make your community pet-friendly... While it's true that any administrator of an assisted living community wants to ensure the satisfaction of his or her residents as much as possible, the fact remains that retirement communities are still businesses, which means there's even further incentive to provide seniors with the residential experience they want. 

In many instances, it's not uncommon for seniors to seek out a community that adheres with their pet-friendly lifestyle. Older adults who own pets may, understandably, be loathe to part with their furry companions when it comes time to move to a residential home or CCRC. 

Opening your community up to pets is a good step to take in helping your residents feel even more at home in your community. But as any dog- or cat-owner knows, pets can be a lot of work, and bring with them their own unique concerns and considerations. If you think that you may want to open your community up to man's best friend, here are some points to consider. 

Why should you consider pets?

If you aren't a pet person yourself, or if you're concerned about the possible additional costs associated with preparing your community for pets, consider the positive effect that pet ownership can have on your residents - as well as the negative effects associated with restricting it.

Pet separation can be a traumatic experience for seniors, especially considering that moving to an assisted living center can already be an incredibly stressful experience. In many cases, a senior's pet may be one of the most significant parts of their daily life, and the prospect of leaving Fido or Fluffy behind - even to join a warm and welcoming community - can be terrifying.

So if pet ownership has a positive impact on your residents, what should you do to prepare?

Establish boundaries

Taking care of a dog or cat can be a rewarding and enriching experience for your residents, but it's important to draw a line somewhere. In many cases, administrators make this decision based on size - cats, small dogs and other unobtrusive pets are typically fine, but you wouldn't want to encourage your seniors to bring their pet tiger or grizzly bear along with them. Encouraging pet ownership is important, but resident safety is even more so. 

Consider staffing

Just like your residents, pets have their own needs that must be addressed. In most cases, your community members are perfectly capable of meeting the needs of their pups. You have emergency medical staff on hand if needed, and you may wish to consider having a line to a local veterinarian who can be called in for residents whose pets get sick or injured. 


Pets are certainly going to create a greater need for routine cleaning specific to wear and tear. Add to your housekeeping tasks these additional needs so that issues such as carpet stains and smell do not become a larger issue. Additional costs may need to be passed onto residents either via a monthly charge or upfront charge. Be sure to communicate charges as well as expectations to your resident and staff as to how important it is for all parties to be involved in the upkeep and care of  the pet and the apartment and surroundings.

Plan for the seasons

Dogs need walks. It's a simple fact of life. While it can be a great source of exercise for a senior to take his or her pooch for a daily walk in the summer, the snow, ice and low temperatures of winter can pose serious barriers to residents and their dogs. Just because your residents are fine with staying inside during the winter doesn't mean the same is true of their dogs. You may want to consider creating a special playroom for residents' dogs in the winter so they can still get exercise and use the bathroom, even if they're unable to get their normal outside walks.

Conversely, it may be preferable to simply keep a network of dog walkers on hand. These professionals can come and take care of the exercise needs of your residents' pets when seniors are unable or unwilling to venture out into the cold, rain or snow.

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