Foster dogs, rude roommates, and lease renewals

isaynayFebruary 22, 2012

Hi, I'm sorry for the length of this message but this has been bothering me for quite some time. This is a pet-related issue, but given the nature of our living arrangements I believe it belongs in this section. Please correct me if I�m wrong.

In June I made contact with a girl (Ailis) over the university forums regarding apartment hunting. We both had exotic pets and I thought it would be a good idea to team up and find a place together rather than independently trying to find (rare) pet-friendly apartments. We got together and found a WONDERFUL three bedroom apartment in a perfect location for a reasonable monthly fee. The landlord was genuinely interested in our animals, owned three other adjoining properties, and did a lot of his own maintenance. There was one other girl (Cristyn) already attached to the apartment (and seeking roommates), but we got along well with her so we signed the lease and made our security deposits. We spent a lot of time together over the summer and in August we were joined by my roommate from last year, Nadine, who commutes from two hours away. She is not on the lease but pays a portion of each of our rents (so the lease is split four ways rather than three), contributes to utilities, and does the majority of the cooking.

In August Ailis went to pick up Lola, a pit/shepherd mix. We had discussed fostering a dog or two during the school year and Nadine and Cristyn both liked the idea, though we had agreed that the responsibility for any dogs would fall on the person(s) whose name was on the foster agreement. Everyone got on well with Lola and things were very easy going. I did attempt to help with advertising Lola and with her daily needs, but Ailis politely stated that Lola was her responsibility and she wanted to be the only one playing any role in her placement.

At this time I approached the girls about taking in my own foster. I suffer from severe depression and bipolar 2 disorder and my psychiatrist had suggested animal therapy when I mentioned the fostering. In theory, having someone other than myself to care for would force me to get up and play an active role in my day. My caged animals weren�t interactive enough and because I am so predisposed to introversion and hanging out by myself, she thought taking on a dog would provide me with both companionship and a sense of self worth. So, with the girls agreement, Ailis and I brought Lola to the shelter, had a few dog meets, and brought home Marcy. Marcy is a young pit mix and much more submissive than Lola. She is endlessly happy, very cuddly, and generally stays out of harms way.

Things were going GREAT for a long time. The dogs were an endless source of entertainment and I was doing much better emotionally. I was in fact considering adopting Marcy if my finances were in order at the end of the semester because she had had such a positive influence on my health and had mentioned this to all of the roommates. And then around December, randomly, Lola started getting a little more aggressive. She had always been more pushy than Marcy but she started guarding the hallway, not letting Marcy into her own crate, stockpiling the toys and not letting Marcy near them� it all culminated when we were playing outside one day and Lola was getting some love from Ailis. Marcy trotted over, displaying no direct dominance or overt confidence, and Lola leapt on her. They came away with a few holes each, but Marcy�s lip had been bitten clean through and she had a number of bites on her shoulders and neck. I chose not to make a big deal out of it and wrote it off as an isolated incident. After this we were much more careful with them and were sure to manage Lola�s increasingly rough behaviors, feeding the dogs in entirely separate rooms and limiting the amount of toys they had access to.

And then Lola attacked a Yorkie at Ailis�s parents home. The dog required a huge number of stitches and was in ICU for three nights. Ailis was told Lola was no longer welcome in her parents home and, with winter break approaching, this meant that if she did not find a home in time she would have to go back to the shelter. With a bite record, she would be put down within 48 hours. As a favor to my friend and roommate, I launched a facebook campaign to get Lola adopted into a dog-less, cat-less, child-less home by December 23rd. In the weeks following the campaign launch, Lola lunged and attempted to bite three more dogs (on and off leash) and jumped at a small child. Nevertheless, the campaign was relatively successful and I was preparing my list of potential adoptees to show Ailis on the 19th (she hadn�t even joined the FB group and had had no involvement in the campaign) when Cristyn approached me and told me she was going to adopt Lola.

This meant three things:

1. Lola, a dog with a bite record whom I no longer trusted, would be staying in the house until June 1st at the least.

2. I would not be able to keep Marcy since Lola was officially only appropriate for single-dog households and her adoption would be processed before I was able to determine whether I could actually adopt Marcy

3. I would not be able to take in another foster when Marcy was adopted.

I attempted to reason with her, pointing out that Cristyn had no animal experience and that Lola was not an appropriate dog for a first timer (she argued that she had Ailis to help her) but they turned it around and told me that for a while they�d been struggling with the whole two-dog thing and that I needed to get Marcy out ASAP. Naturally I was annoyed and argued that I wasn�t going to settle for just any home for Marcy so that they could have their way. Given my previous assertions about adopting her and the therapeutic nature of my relationship with her, I felt that my feelings were being entirely disregarded. Cristyn said I wasn�t about feelings but about saving Lola�s life, but didn�t change her stance when I pointed out the list of people I had gathered who were also willing to save Lola�s life. She attempted to give me a deadline, which I laughed at, and then begged me to have Marcy out asap and made me promise to "really, really try."

Since then things have been very tense regarding the dogs. Lola has become increasingly aggressive with other dogs and has begun to demonstrate aggression towards people. She growls at almost all men who come into our home (familiar and not), has attacked Marcy several more times, and today I overheard the girls discussing Lola lunging and snapping at a random passerby on the street. Ailis shrugged this off as "she just doesn�t like anyone but her family anymore" and suggested that whoever walks her just "pop her collar" in that situation. I have started keeping Marcy as far away from Lola as possible to avoid fights (which are almost always instigated by Lola guarding the hallway or the couch or something), which means she and I are basically sequestered in my room 90% of the time. I must make it clear that Marcy is exceptionally mild mannered. She stays at my heels and keeps to herself. At times she tries to play with Lola, but it is very restrained and gentle. Lola tends to bang Marcy on the head with a toy until Marcy reacts and then, if Marcy tries to play WITH the toy that is being waved in her face, Lola becomes defensive and attacks.

I have asked the girls numerous times to feed Lola in a closed off room because they leave her bowl down and I can�t take Marcy down the hallway to go outside without her getting attacked over the food bowl, but every day the bowl is left down and half full of food. Whenever I ask them to put Lola away for a while so Marcy can come out of my room, I have to make sure we set up somewhere obnoxious because if we are off to the side or if Marcy wanders into my room or the bathroom they just let Lola out again and we have problems.

At this point I am having to leave Marcy in my room to shut Lola away and pick up her bowl and make sure the coast is entirely clear before taking Marcy out to the bathroom. Lola has forgotten her housetraining and they will go out and leave Lola at the house (rather than putting her at Cristyn�s parents house) without telling me and then when Lola poos on Cristyn�s carpet fuss at me for not letting her out when I�m usually not home or aware that they are gone. They have all started considering Lola the golden child and if I dare comment at all negatively on her behavior I�m given a snide response about how Marcy isn�t perfect either. But any problem Marcy had (housebreaking, crying, leash manners, garbage rooting) was fixed extremely promptly and hasn�t resurfaced. They never even see her any more. Lola cries at all hours of the morning, has snarled at my boyfriend and brother, and at this point makes me very uncomfortable. I do not trust her and I am not comfortable living with her. To top it all off, Cristyn�s parents just bought a yorkie.

Now Marcy is getting adopted by a wonderful family this Saturday and while I am very excited for her and am glad to not be shut in my room defending her all the time, I am very uncomfortable with Lola remaining in the house and am distraught over the prospect of not being able to bring home another foster. I am very concerned about my emotional health when Marcy was so exceptionally healing and am concerned about how my body will function without that extra reason to get up.

The most logical option would be to move out, but with my other pets that could be difficult and this location is so ideal. Ailis might also be graduating this year (she hasn�t decided whether she�ll be moving or not) and Cristyn has stated that if Ailis leaves so will she. Nadine is transferring. So I might be in a position to pick my own (quieter) roommates next year and begin fostering again. But that still leaves me with 3 months of the lease and a lot of tension. Furthermore, I have kept exceptionally quiet about Ailis�s cockatoo. The bird screams constantly and while Ailis knows I openly dislike the bird I have refrained from asking her to get rid of it because of our friendship. At this point, however, I feel like we�re not really friends. I hide out in my room all day so Marcy isn�t on her own and grimace my way through the day. I am very hesitant to ask them to get rid of Lola just because of the drama it would cause. I�m much more comfortable sitting back and taking it, but at this point I�m going nuts. I am very resentful of having an extremely effective mode of therapy taken away from me and of having to deal with all the constant noise from Lola and the bird.

I haven�t even started on the issues I have with the girls themselves.


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This comes from a true animal lover who as I type have 2 rescues laying at my feet. Lola has to go. To a home that is suitable for her in every way. Your roommates are being selfish and putting their desires above what is best for Lola. That is not love for an animal, that is pure human selfishness. But what's worse, this is a nightmare waiting to happen. And the collective lot of you will be on the hook when it does.

I generally have a no pets policy, not the pets fault. Anyway, I relented & broke that policy about 5 years ago for a shepherd mix, sweet & docile as they come, on the condition my tenant secure renters insurance with high liability limits and provide proof of vaccinations. The real problems would have started with my own insurance company had that dog shown any aggression or caused harm to anyone, particularly on the property. I learned through my agent later that many insurance companies (including the one that insures our rental property) maintain a list of 'high risk' dog breeds. (Google and you'll see.) Lola is a combination of two breeds that consistently show up on these lists. This is one reason why more and more landlords are refusing pets. I've since gone back to my no pets policy and there won't be any more exceptions.

Lola has already gone after multiple dogs, and dear lord, a child. I know a child who from the age of 3 has gone through multiple re-constructive surgeries to her face after the family pet with no prior aggressive tendencies bit her. Get Lola out of there. You are all sitting on a ticking bomb. One that has repercussions that go far beyond those from breaking a lease or getting booted out or something similar. Lola hurts someone and there is a lawsuit you, every last roommate, and probably your (unenlightened?) landlord as well will be named in it. One that could financially wipe every last one of you out before you even get started in life. And Lola will pay the highest price: losing her life.

And if you show your roommates this, and they snicker & don't take it seriously, I'd encourage you to do some googling and research on lawsuits from dog bites as well. You are all probably too young to remember the Diane Whipple case in San Francisco. It gained national attention & has continued to stir heated debates ever since. She was attacked in the hallway of her apartment building by her neighbor's dogs. Ms. Whipple lost her life, as did the dogs, and the owners were charged with murder.

On August 23, 2010, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco ruled 3-0 that Marjorie Knoller acted with a conscious disregard for human life when her Presa Canario escaped and killed Diane Whipple in 2001. Knoller is serving a sentence of 15 years to life.... In addition to the criminal charges, Sharon Smith also succeeded in suing Knoller and Noel for $1,500,000 in civil damages.

Take this seriously. Act now. For everyone's benefit, especially for Lola. It's not worth it. It's just not.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 8:08AM
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Moonshadow wrote everything I was about to say. Please read that response carefully and then read it again. Then act on it.

I love animals. I love dogs. But Lola is not a dog suited to the situation in which she is living. She's threatened a child--that alone sends shivers down my spine.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 8:21AM
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I entirely agree that Lola deserves an entirely different environment, but given how little luck I'm having trying to get Marcy time in the main part of the house I'm not exactly confident going in to suggest Lola be re-homed. I feel that my opinions receive zero respect and am not at all sure how to approach this.

Our land lord is actually quite fond of Lola. She tends to go rushing and barking at people coming onto our property but stops if they don't back down. This is common since a lot of university students cut through our yard to get to the apartments behind ours. She is guarding her territory and, while it hasn't escalated to outright attacks, it makes me nervous. There is a group of ten year old's who live in some of those apartments and play in our yard too.

Our land lord likes the added security that comes with a dog that makes her presence on the property known. There have been a number of robberies in our neighborhood (the dogs have barked and scared off a few suspicious looking men more than once (the difference is Marcy barks and stays put... Lola barks and rushes)) and he is always happy to hear her bark through the window. I'm not sure if he knows about her attacks.

How would you suggest I present this case? I would hate to lose my pet privileges when I've always been so conscious of Marcy's behavior and when fostering has been so wonderfully therapeutic for me.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 10:35PM
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First, google "dog bite law [your state]" to find out who is liable in the case of Lola attacking someone. In my state, the dog doesn't have to bite a person--if the dog scares a person enough so that they are frightened and fall while trying to get away from the dog, the owner is liable for any injuries associated from that fall. If Lola attacked Marcy in my state, I could easily press charges against Lola's owner, who at the very least would have to pay all the vet bills. Print it out and give it to Ailis or email it to her.

Second, while Lola is the focus of your post, the real, underlying problem here is that you don't get along with your roommates and they don't get along with you. The best thing for you is to get out of there.

It sounds like your landlord owns a fair number of apartments. Talk with him *now* about moving to a different, smaller apartment when your lease is up, or even before then if that is possible. Don't dither around waiting for three other women to make up their minds if they are staying or not--given their behavior so far, do you really think that Ailis and Cristyn are going to tell you the truth? They could very easily play games with you, changing their minds dozens of times before making a real decision--leaving you with very little time to find a place to live.

You have three months. That's more than enough time to find a place to live, even with pets. If your landlord has multiple apartments, surely you can make arrangements to move to a different one when it becomes vacant. Then you can keep your pets and foster a dog and choose your own roommates.

You need to take control of this situation. Find a new place to live. Make it clear to everyone you know that you are not responsible for Lola--they may have to testify on your behalf if Lola attacks someone.

Do not rely on Ailis to leave the apartment or to follow through on anything she says she will do. Make your own plans and find a safe place to live.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 8:41AM
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Is this really that complicated to figure out? Lola is obviously a dangerous animal and should be put down before something really bad happens. Instead we have a bunch of silly, overindulged children with sufficient free time to launch Facebook campaigns to "rescue" animals with a demonstrated propensity for attacking other animals and people.

If you need some "mission" in your life to make it worthwhile to roll out of bed each morning, why not find a truly worthwhile cause. I'd be willing to bet you wouldn't have to look too hard, nor walk too far to find a child who didn't have dinner last night.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 10:05AM
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If you had read my message thoroughly you would see that I'm not defending Lola in any way. She is not my responsibility. If she had been my responsibility she would have gone back to she the shelter after attacking that puppy for another behavior evaluation and most likely euthanized. If I could not predict or trust Marcy's behavior she would not have stayed for as long as she did. I make it a point to only work with highly adoptable dogs from a particularly high kill shelter who are, for whatever reason, being looked over. The campaign was launched as a favor to my 'friend' when she, the LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE PARTY, was UNWILLING to bring Lola back to the shelter and was in order to find a SUITABLE home with EXPERIENCED, CHILDLESS owners who might be able to manage her behavior. I was not aware that my efforts would be ignored and had no control over the fact my roommate chose to adopt her or that the shelter didn't do their research into her as an owner.

I believe that Lola is is dangerous and am very uncomfortable with her presence and want her gone, whether that means she is adopted elsewhere or euthanized. My problem is in finding a way of removing her when she is not my dog or my responsibility. I don't know how to approach this subject with my roommates when they so blatantly disregard any of my suggestions regarding Lola. At the same time I would like to minimize the rift caused by starting anything here.

I am extremely concerned that Lola will attack someone but have read that if she were to the liability would only fall on the owner, not the landlord or any other residents. This means I don't have much of a case to bring my land lord. If I'm overlooking something please let me know.

Lola has since displayed aggressive behavior towards my brother and father and I feel like my family and I have a right to feel safe in my apartment. At the same time, I have pets and don't want to lose that priviledge. I'm looking to make a case to have a specific, dangerous animal removed without encouraging my LL to instate a breed/size specific regulation on pets. Animal control?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:10AM
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"I'm looking to make a case to have a specific, dangerous animal removed without encouraging my LL to instate a breed/size specific regulation on pets. "

Okay, so this is the real question you need answered. It might be a good idea to post this on the Pets forum, where there are more people who know about these things.

But first, a question for you. Has Lola bitten any person or dog? Or is it still at the snapping/barking/growling stage?

Check your local laws about dogs. They vary greatly. In some places, any dog that has bitten a person must be surrendered for evaluation. If Lola has bitten a person or another dog, just go ahead and report her. Find out what the laws are and what you need as evidence.

You need to face the fact that your relationship with the roommates is already in a bad state. I would not even bother trying to mend it at this time. Just keep safe and wait things out until the end of the lease. And start looking for a new place now. These other women are not your friends. They actively did the opposite of what you asked them to do in order to keep both Marcy and Lola safe.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 2:06PM
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Thank you Camlan.
Lola attacked a yorkie puppy in mid-december causing quite a bit of damage. The dog required extensive stitching and stapling and was in the ICU for three days.

Lola has also bitten/attacked Marcy multiple times. All of these were resource guarding instances where Lola was guarding something completely inappropriate, eg. the hallway. I would always ask the other people in the room which dog lunged because I didn't want to have a bias and Lola was always the instigator. It became difficult to even come inside from a walk because Lola would guard the door war and start snapping as soon as we crossed the threshold. She has drawn blood and left Marcy with some nasty punctures. After the worst of these incidents I started keeping Marcy as far away from her as possible and things really became tense in the house.

As far as people, Lola is only growling/snapping/lunging at this stage. She is very unpredictable and while her resource guarding was almost entirely directed against Madge, she has started guarding the house and yard from anyone who passes through. She will tense, growl, start barking, and then charge. She has so far been caught/yelled at before making contact with anybody, but I can't help but worry about this situation. My boyfriend, brother, and father cannot enter the house without her coming dashing to the door growling.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 1:08AM
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It's a binary solution - you leave or Lola leaves. Decide what you want to do and act on it, although given what you've said about your roommate's behavior it will probably be best if you just moved on.

Talk to your landlord about breaking your lease. Does he have another unit you could move into?

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 7:43AM
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