Before she came to the valley to work at the Jackson Animal Hospital, Jules Bell never had trouble finding a place to live with her 13-year-old black Lab, Gus, and her two cats, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist.
That held true for her first accommodation in town. But when she learned her rent would be increasing come the next lease, she knew she and her trio of furry friends would need to look elsewhere. This time around, they weren’t so lucky.
“I called around a lot of places, and most of the regulations were one animal per person, or no animals at all,” Bell said. “So I kind of realized I was stuck.”
Now, she said, “I’m just biting the bullet.” She renewed her lease and will try to afford the rent hike on a veterinary technician’s wages.
It’s a familiar plight for many pet owners. For a locale that so dearly loves its animals, Jackson Hole doesn’t always make it easy to keep them. The rules often seem at odds with the fact that there are an estimated 20,000 dogs and cats in Teton County, according to PAWS of Jackson Hole — roughly one per person.
“There’s lots of pets,” said Amy Moore, executive director of PAWS, “and very few places you can take them.”
Housing is the foremost hurdle for would-be pet owners. Though the town of Jackson allows up to two dogs per residence, many landlords and homeowners’ associations drop that number to one or prohibit them altogether, typically to keep damage and noise to a minimum.
With other HOAs only owners can keep pets, and renters have to make do with human companions. Ironically, Moore, an owner, has an HOA that enforces that rule; she has pushed to OK renters with pets.
Many of those regulations have simply been on the books for years or decades, she said, and no one has thought to change them or gone to the trouble to do so. But her neighborhood seemed to mostly welcome the change.
“It boils down to time and effort,” she said, “and it’s easier just to keep the status quo.”
Though Moore’s HOA will likely expand its pet horizons, “it’s a very small dent in the larger picture here,” she said. For many others the barriers to animal ownership remain, and in some cases they prove insurmountable.
“It’s devastating,” Moore said. “People don’t want to give up their pets.”
Faced with the choice between that and stretching her finances thinner, Bell had no trouble deciding. Though she doesn’t judge people who choose otherwise, especially those with families, she said she wouldn’t turn over her animals for anything.
“I’d live in a tent before I’d surrender them,” she said. “My dog’s my best friend.”
Adam Galadima understands the struggle as well as anyone. But before he came to Jackson, he said, “I didn’t even know that was an issue.” In Oklahoma he usually just had to pay a fee for his animals.
After his second move in Jackson, however, the best housing option for him and his young family didn’t allow pets. He reluctantly took his short-haired cat, Boots, to the Jackson/Teton County Animal Shelter.
To this day, he said, “if my family members remember that cat, some of them spend days crying.”
Now he’s the community service officer at the shelter, where he takes in the animals that others surrender when they find themselves in the same situation. In 2018 the shelter accepted eight dogs and 13 cats whose owners could no longer house them, and Galadima noted that many more people likely find homes for their pets without help from the shelter.
“These,” he said, “are the animals we get in because people don’t have any other choice.” ￼