The best way to find out whether your apartment complex allows pet snakes is to ask your landlord directly.
However, before you do, it helps to understand the kinds of concerns landlords have about allowing pet snakes.
Do Apartments Allow Pet Snakes?
Almost any lease agreement has a clause concerning pets, but not all rental contracts are specific about which pets are allowed and which are not.
Most leases are vague and leave acceptance of pets to the manager’s discretion.
There are some leases that state “no pets, including aquarium pets.” This kind of language also applies to terrarium pets, like pet snakes.
The reason apartment complexes add this kind of language to lease agreements is that they are concerned about damage from broken glass or leaking water—and they have similar concerns about many kinds of pet snakes.
Larger snakes, as you may know, eat larger animals. A hungry escaped snake poses a real danger to other tenants’ hamsters, guinea pigs, kittens, ferrets, and puppies.
Many apartment managers just are not willing to risk the kind of upset and liability an uncaged snake slithering through the complex could cause.
If your lease agreement says “no reptiles” or “no pet snakes,” then you should not expect to get permission to keep a pet snake.
But if the issue is left open to negotiation, then you can reach out to your landlord and talk to him/her. And for that, you are better off with an understanding of your apartment manager’s concerns.
How Apartment Managers Treat Pet Snakes
Apartment managers are like any other group of people with regard to pet snakes.
Some will respond with “eww” but give sincere consideration to what they can do to keep you and your snake happy.
Some may simply not understand what is involved in keeping a pet snake.
There may be some managers who are not prepared to be reasonable about pets they do not keep themselves.
And some may keep pet snakes themselves, but not necessarily on the property.
You are always more likely to get permission to keep a pet snake if you can address your manager’s concern about pet snakes.
There are certain issues that come up again and again.
Managers May Be Concerned About Rodent Control
If you were to ask a rental company for an official statement about why they do not permit their tenants to keep reptiles, you might get an answer like this:
“The reason we include snakes in our pet policy is to keep rodents out of our complex.”
If this is your manager’s concern, you could try explaining that your pet snake does not eat live mice.
In fact, most pet snakes, other than a few very fussy eaters, are used to eating previously frozen-thawed mice, or highly processed foods like Reptilinks.
If your pet snake is a species that doesn’t eat rodents (such as an African egg-eating snake, a garter snake, a rough green snake, a smooth green snake, a water snake, an Indian egg-eater, a flowerpot snake, or a snail-eating snake), be upfront about letting your manager know.
There may still be an issue with other kinds of food for snakes, but at least your manager can know you won’t be bringing live rodents into the complex.
Managers May Really Be Concerned About Cats and Dogs
Sometimes a “no pets” clause is really all about keeping cats and dogs from ruining the carpet.
If this is the case with your manager, you can simply explain that you keep your pet snake in a terrarium. The inevitable question that follows will be “And when do you let it out?”
It’s always best to give an honest answer. But don’t lead with something on the lines of “My snake needs the sun for vitamin D, so we go to the tennis court three times a week.”
You will clean your snake’s enclosure regularly, right? You have to take the snake out of its terrarium for that.
Maybe you take your snake out of its regular home to feed it. Or you take your snake for annual checkups and sick visits at the veterinarian’s office.
You need to explain not just the time your snake is in its regular home, but also how you secure the snake for those times it must get out.
Managers May Be Concerned About What Other Tenants Will Think
Apartment managers have to be concerned about keeping everyone comfortable.
That rule applies to other tenants, of course, but also to the staff and service people who come and go at the complex.
If you were to ask an apartment manager about the circumstances under which a tenant might be asked to remove a pet snake, the answer might be something like this:
“If we get complaints from other tenants or from service people visiting the complex, or if we find evidence of a health problem or an escaped pet, we issue a notice to the tenant who owns the pet to fix the problem in three days. We don’t usually have an issue with small caged pets, but we have to take action if they are not properly restrained.”
If the apartment complex did not enforce its rules about keeping snakes and other reptiles confined, they could face liability from other tenants or visitors to the complex in case of an unfortunate event.
Managers Generally Try to Accept Emotional Support Animals
Apartment managers generally do their best to accommodate tenants who need emotional support animals.
They are not necessarily required to accept emotional support animals by law, the same way they are required to accept service animals, but most managers will do their best to find a way for you to keep your emotional support snake.
But you can’t “demand your rights” to an emotional support snake as if it were a service animal.
That is because your pet snake cannot be your “service animal,” at least in terms of the federal laws that apply to rental housing. The law defines a service animal as a dog.
Also, it is not enough to declare that your pet snake is your emotional support animal.
You may be able to document your snake as an emotional support animal.
Here is what you will need to do:
- Document that you are seeing a therapist for a diagnosed emotional issue.
- Get your therapist to certify that your snake is serving as your emotional support animal as part of your therapy.
- Be ready to assure your manager that your snake will not cause harm or inconvenience to others.
Laws regarding emotional support animals aren’t the same everywhere (although laws regarding service animals are uniform at least throughout the United States).
The clearer the connection between your snake and your emotional health, the easier it will be to get it recognized as your emotional support animal.
Ask About a Pet Addendum
If you have been open with your apartment management about your pet snake they may be open to a pet addendum to your lease agreement.
Dog and cat owners work out this kind of agreement all the time.
What is a pet addendum?
A pet addendum is a document you add to your lease in which you and your landlord formalize an agreement about the terms for keeping your pets.
You make a written statement about the animals you own, not just that you have a snake, but also the species of snake, how you will take care of your pet snake, and what you can and cannot do on the property with your pet snake.
Different apartment complexes will have different terms for their pet addendums.
These additions to your lease do not always mean you will pay more money.
Never Lie About Your Pet Snake
The one thing you must not do with your apartment management is to lie about your pet snake.
If your landlord finds out about your snake through an unfortunate incident, such as the death of another tenant’s pet or just the escape of your snake, you could be evicted, lose your rental deposit, and be liable for damages.
Also read: Will My Landlord Know I have a Cat?
Keeping Snakes in Apartments – Some FAQs
Q. Is there any special risk to me if I keep a pet snake in my apartment?
A. Properly enclosed, pet snakes pose less risk to their owners than dogs and cats.
However, it is possible to pick up the bacteria that cause food poisoning if you handle a snake without washing yourself afterward.
If you let a snake crawl on or up your clothing, you should change clothes and shower after you put your pet back in its enclosure.
Q. If I am allowed to keep my pet snake in my apartment, what kind of enclosure is required?
A. The most important feature of any enclosure for your pet snake to be kept in an apartment is that it should be escape-proof. Your pet snake’s enclosure should have a secure top that can be locked.
If you have small children, your pet snake’s terrarium should be child-proof.
They and their friends should not be able to open it without your supervision.
Q. Are there places where it is illegal to keep pet snakes?
A. In the United States, Hawaii is the only state to ban all pet snakes. Hawaii has a unique and delicate ecology that could be easily damaged by escaped pet snakes.
Bringing a snake to Hawaii without permission would almost certainly result in strong enforcement action, including fines or even jail time and euthanizing your snake.
California bans wild-caught snakes, and it also bans catching wild animals to feed your snake. Delaware requires a permit to keep a snake.
Florida, where there is a serious environmental problem caused by escaped Burmese pythons, may have local rules about registering your snake, and how you have to secure it.
New York City and San Francisco ban ownership of certain larger snakes, including ball pythons.
Outside the United States, the state of New South Wales in Australia bans the ownership of wild-caught snakes. All pet snakes must be captive-bred and bought through a dealer.
In Canada, Toronto bans ownership of snakes of length greater than three meters, or any venomous snake.
Many other jurisdictions in the province of Ontario have similar rules. The provinces of Alberta and British Columbia ban keeping rattlesnakes.
In the United Kingdom, it isn’t illegal to own a snake, but there are many species that can only be kept after you register them and with a special permit.
There is a long list of snakes that require a permit throughout the United Kingdom, almost all of them venomous.
Q. Will my dog eat my snake?
A. Probably not. There are situations in which a very hungry dog might attack, kill, and eat a small snake, but it is highly unlikely that this would happen if you keep your dog well-fed.
Similarly, there are very few reports of boa constrictors and pythons that ate small dogs, but they were unfed for a long period of time and escape their cages.
Q. Can my dog catch diseases from my snake?
A: Pet snakes don’t get sick from the Salmonella in the animals they eat, but they can pass Salmonella to other animals and people through their feces.
Snakes take up to several days to digest their prey.
During that time, the bacteria in the food animal’s gut multiply, and escape into feces.
Since snakes come into contact with their own feces, picking them up, or, in your dog’s case, licking them can transfer the bacteria that cause food poisoning in dogs and people.
Cats usually avoid snakes so this does not happen.
Q. Is it really dangerous to keep a pet snake in my apartment?
A. If you are careful about cleaning and hygiene, and you keep your snake in a comfortable, locked terrarium, there is very little danger for yourself or for your neighbors in keeping a non-venomous snake.
The rules are more for the protection of people who don’t understand snakes.
Be a good neighbor and you will help more people appreciate the value of keeping pet snakes.
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