Tips for Finding a Pet-Friendly Apartment in Boston

Some folks just aren’t pet people. But for the rest of us, giving up our animal companions is a deal-breaker. Unfortunately, this can complicate the already-tricky process of finding an apartment in such a competitive market. So how do you find a pet-friendly apartment in Boston? 

Read on, friend.

Filter Your Search

The first, and easiest step in finding a pet-friendly apartment in Boston, is to filter your search results accordingly. Boston Pet Apartments makes this incredibly easy, but you can also search through other sites in our network — from interest sites like Off-Campus PadsBoston Luxury Apartments, to city and neighborhood-specific portals like Medford Pads or Downtown Boston Pads — with all the ease of use you could want, combined with Boston’s most powerful and comprehensive real estate database. 

Simply choose “more filters” from the search bar, and check the box for pets. We also allow you to search for apartments that allow cats, dogs, or both, as landlords who might not allow most pets might have a special allowance for some of the more common types.

By starting out your search this way, you can avoid hours of frustration, missed opportunities, and disappointment.

Become the Exception that Proves the Rule

Picture this: you’ve found the perfect abode for you and your whole crew: wagging tails and all. It’s everything you want, at a steal of a price... but the landlord doesn’t allow pets. 

End of the line? Not necessarily.

If you’ve got your heart set on a place, bring up your concerns with the landlord in question, and see if you two can’t work out some kind of deal. This usually involves some kind of pet deposit or rider on the contract. If you’re looking for examples, the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA) released example guidelines  that form the basis of many such arrangements. If your potential landlord is open to the idea — but wants some assurances — creating a pet rider for the lease might be the way to go.

Do Your Homework

Don’t expect your landlord to know everything that goes into pet ownership and law, especially if you’re trying to get an exception for your pet. Whether you’re moving in from out of state, or just want to brush up on the specifics, it pays to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of pet ownership from a legal standpoint.

The city of Boston has a quick read on basic regulations and the department of Animal Care and Control has resources for things you’ll need — such as how to license your dog — and other resources for pet owners in The Hub. has an easy-to-read list of relevant laws, if you want to go deeper into the specifics, but the basics are about what you’d expect:

  • State law requires your dogs to get a new license every year. Dogs 6 months and older also need a rabies vaccine.
  • Follow leash laws: in MA, your pupper needs to be on a leash whenever you’re off your property. Designated dog parks are an exception to this, but make sure it’s clearly marked as such — not every green space is a dog park!
  • You are, in fact, required by law to clean up your dog’s messes, regardless of where they occur — even inside your apartment! If the smell starts to affect those around you, that’s a citation.

Make Sure Your Pet is Permitted

Finding a “pet-friendly” apartment in Boston isn’t the end. If you’ve got an exotic pet, you’ll quickly discover that can mean different things depending on who you ask. Most landlords know about dogs and cats, but what about your pet hedgehog? Are pet snakes legal in Massachusetts? Even if you know the answers to those questions (both are legal, by the way), don’t expect your landlord to know the details. The burden of evidence is on you to show that your pet is not only legal, but doesn’t present a greater threat or inconvenience than a cat or dog might.

That means coming prepared.

Not every unusual pet requires a permit, but some do. And some are just flat-out banned: if your dream apartment involves a tank of piranha and some endangered species, you’re out of luck. But most exotic pets are fine. Some, like venomous snakes, require a permit. Others, from turtles and tegu lizards to parrots and chinchillas, don’t require a permit of any kind: though you can quickly run afoul of your lease agreement if you don’t take the necessary extra steps your exotic pet needs. 

If you’re unsure, or just want to see what interesting pets are allowed under state law, check out’s list of domestic animals to be sure. But a word of advice: just because a domestic water buffalo is a legal pet in Massachusetts (true), that doesn’t mean that your landlord will let you keep one in your studio apartment. Just use some common sense and you’ll be fine.

Make a Great First Impression

In some cases, the landlord will want to meet your pet before they agree to anything. This isn’t a test that you can cram for: you’ll have to do the work ahead of time. Your pet’s behavior can make or break your landlord’s willingness to budge, so be sure to put your best foot (or paw) forward with a well-trained, interview-ready pet.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) has a free pet behavior helpline that you can contact by phone or email for basic behavioral questions, in addition to offering dog training courses. The MSPCA also offers dog and cat training at their Boston location, including nosework (the same type of training that police dogs undergo). Boston has some truly excellent professional pet training businesses: you can find an up-to-date list of the most popular schools here.

Finding Boston Apartments for you and your Pet(s)

Ultimately, finding a pet-friendly apartment in Boston isn’t that different from finding any other apartment: it’s all a matter of finding what you want, and figuring out how to make it work. It’s one of the things we’re proud of here at the Boston Pads network: with over 15,400 local landlords and property managers listing their vacancies, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in our comprehensive database.

And if you ever want any help sorting through it all, feel free to reach out to us — we’ll put our expertise to use getting you and your pets into the apartment of your dreams!