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Pets welcome: Lowcountry apartments cater to furry family members

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Ashley Moore says the front office staff at her apartment community enjoy kisses and greetings from her dog, Clover.

Ashley Moore appreciates amenities like the pool and fitness center at Plantation Oaks Apartments in West Ashley. But perhaps more importantly, the community also pampers her pup, Clover Jane.

“Clover means the world to me,” Moore said of her cuddly toy king cockapoo. “She is my comfort, my friend, my sounding board and entertainment.”

Another local dog owner, Megan Blackman, needs space to roam with her energetic Weimaraner, Ghost.

That’s one reason she chose to live in Colonial Grand at Cypress Cove, an apartment complex near West Ashley Park.

Luckily for apartment-dwelling pet owners like Moore and Blackman, multifamily communities are increasingly adding features specifically for residents’ animal companions.

Dog Spas and Yappy Hours

The pet crowd is a hard market segment to ignore: Almost 70 percent of U.S. households own a pet, according to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association.

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Clover is a Toy King Cockapoo.

Today, many apartment complexes boast dog parks, dog-washing stations and pet-centric events, among other perks for furry family members.

At Plantation Oaks, for instance, pups can run around a fenced-in dog park, freshen up at the outdoor Dog Spa, or get a treat at the front office.

Such features make the place “more of a home” for people and their pets, said Michelle Lorick, the community manager.

Apartments tend to attract young professionals without kids, as well as empty-nesters whose children have grown and moved away, Lorick said. For these groups, pets often fill a need for companionship and protection.

At Plantation Oaks, about 52 percent of residents own pets – mostly dogs and cats, but also the occasional guinea pig or fish.

Pet-friendly communities also provide a social outlet for animal lovers.

At Bees Ferry Apartment Homes in West Ashley, resident dog owners schedule pup play dates to visit the property’s dog park or walk along its nature trails, said leasing professional Jessica Martin, who lives on site with her Chinese crested dog, Leo, and her calico cat, Django. “There’s always a group (of pet owners) that’s going out,” she said.

The complex regularly hosts events for pets and their owners, such as a recent “Brew and Chew” gathering with beer tasting for adults and treat samples for pups.

Thanks to perks like these, the complex was voted “favorite apartment home for animal lovers” in Lowcountry Paws’ 2018 Paws Picks Awards.

“We like to offer (our residents) the best that we can for their pets,” Martin said.

Of course, pet-friendly policies and amenities benefit the apartment industry, too.

“If you didn’t accept pets, you wouldn’t capture a majority of the market,” noted Lorick of Plantation Oaks, which is owned by Pennsylvania-based High Associates Ltd.

Today, about half of High Associates communities have a Bark Park, and all welcome pets, according to the company website.

Happy together

Though single-family homes typically offer more living space and a yard, pets can thrive in an apartment setting with the proper training and attention, pet owners say.

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Megan Blackman lives in a West Ashley apartment with her canine best friend and running buddy, Ghost. 

Dog owner Moore, the Plantation Oaks resident, says her small dog Clover has adjusted just fine to apartment living.

Clover gets daily exercise and play time and stays in a cozy crate when Moore is working. On foul-weather days, dog-training games keep Clover’s mind engaged, Moore said.

Moore and Clover take daily walks along the property’s scenic paths, and often visit the dog park. The pair usually makes a stop at the front office, where Clover enthusiastically greets apartment staff with kisses. “They absolutely love, love, love dogs,” said Moore, 32.

And just like her owner, Clover has made friends with her Plantation Oaks neighbors and their pups.

Even large dogs can be happy in an apartment, if the owners commit to giving their pooches the proper care and attention.

Take Ghost, the 2-year-old Weimaraner, and his owner, Blackman.

Blackman chose to live at Cypress Cove in part because of its spacious floorplans, which offer extra room for her 60-pound pup.

Blackman and Ghost get outside several times a day. The two typically stroll along the community’s sidewalks or run at the nearby park. When she’s working, Blackman, 28, comes home at lunchtime to let Ghost out and give him some love.

Big dogs that don’t get enough attention or exercise can get bored and destroy things, Blackman cautioned.

“I did a lot of research (about dog breeds),” she said. “I knew what I was getting.”

Blackman also attended training classes with Ghost and the two play games at home to stave off boredom. He’s particularly fond of hide-and-seek, she said.

While pet-friendly communities generally offer more features for canines than for felines, cat owners enjoy apartment life, too.

Robert Trevino and his two cats, Ori and Logan, share a two-bedroom apartment in Summerville’s Sawbranch community, managed by Darby Development Co. of Charleston.

“Most homes for rent just flat out don't allow pets unless you jump through a bunch of hoops,” said Trevino, 41. “That was a big reason I chose an apartment.”

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Robert Trevino said the apartment staff at his Summerville community make living with pets easy. His two cats are Ori and Logan.

The Sawbranch staff also looks out for pet owners, he said, recalling a time when he was hospitalized and a property manager helped feed his cats.

Sawbranch is popular with dog owners, as well. Pups can run off steam around the property’s fenced-in tennis courts, or trot on a leash along the nearby Sawmill Branch Trail, a 6.5-mile-long paved walking path.

Pet policies

Pet parents should expect to follow the rules in pet-friendly communities. Often, they’ll need to pay a one-time pet deposit, plus a monthly pet fee in addition to rent. Some properties set limits on pet size and prohibit aggressive breeds, and most require animals to be up to date on vaccinations.

To keep the community clean and neighbors happy, dog owners should properly dispose of pet waste. Many communities install pet waste stations throughout the property to encourage owners to pick up after their pets. Some places even use DNA tracking to match unscooped droppings with resident dogs, and owners can be fined for what their pet left behind.

Ask for a copy of the community’s pet policies for the full scoop on what to expect.