When I was first considering accepting MIT’s offer of admission to a PhD program, one of my main concerns was finding housing for my family. I had heard that Boston’s housing situation was brutal, and to top it off, my then-fiancé and I were trying to bring two large dogs to the big city with us. Making sure that my entire family, furry friends included, could come with me to graduate school was a huge source of stress, especially when trying to do so from 400 miles away in our hometown of Rochester, NY. I’ve learned a lot about finding pet-friendly housing in Boston over the past few years by necessity - here’s what I’ve learned and things that I wish I had known before moving.
You will need to live off campus, likely with a moderate commute time
Currently, dogs are prohibited from the dorm rooms unless special permissions are obtained, such as in the case of a service animal. This means that you will definitely need to find housing off-campus.
The housing within walking distance to campus is prohibitively expensive and much more restrictive towards pets, so I have always lived at least a train ride away from MIT. As an example, in my first year, my husband and I lived in Somerville, in one of the only apartments we were able to find online that allowed pets. My commute to school was a 15-20-minute walk to the train station, and then a 20-30-minute train ride to Kendall. When rent increased after our one-year lease expired, the apartment was no longer affordable and we moved to Quincy, which was a 35-45 minute train ride to MIT.
You will almost always need to pay more
In both of the apartments I have lived in, there was always an extra charge for each dog or cat in the residence. These fees might be a one-time additional cleaning fee when you move out (ours was $150), or might be a monthly fee on top of your rent (in my experience, anywhere from $25-$100 per dog), which can really add up over time. Be prepared for these fees when looking at rent prices and really consider whether or not you can manage them financially.
For additional examples, here is a page that lists Boston apartment complexes, their rent prices, and pet restrictions (note that it’s from 2014, so it might be a bit out of date).
You will need to rely on another person to help care for the dog(s)
Graduate school is busy, with long and sometimes strange hours (this can be highly dependent on the type of research you do). If my husband had not been able to make it home early some days to take our dogs to the bathroom, it would not have been possible to bring them to Boston - they need to hold their pee for as long as you are at work! I strongly suggest having another person whom you trust that is willing to help you care for the dog so that you don’t need to rush home early every single day for potty time.
Another option is to hire a dog walker. We tried this for a few months and were relieved that our dogs were able to go to the bathroom in the middle of the day, but found that ultimately it was too expensive on top of our rent and other bills to maintain this. If you don’t have someone to help you and will need to hire a dog walker, do your research ahead of time to determine whether or not you can afford it.
Here is a dog-walker whom I trust with fair prices (she does on-call visits for when you might get stuck in lab, in case you can’t afford paying for daily walks).
Try to get a bottom-floor apartment
Dogs will inevitably make noise walking around on uncarpeted floors, which can upset your downstairs neighbors. If possible, request a ground-floor apartment or do your best to cover your hardwood or tile floors with rugs to minimize noise.
Size, number, and breed matter
In general, unless you find a relaxed landlord, the number of dogs you are able to have is limited to 1 or 2. Additionally, many apartments restrict the size of the dog (for example, less than 25 pounds). Also, while this policy is variable, most apartments will not allow specific breeds that are considered aggressive or dangerous. Keep this in mind if you know that your dog is on the restricted list as you might have trouble finding a landlord that will allow them in the building.
Your dog needs to be well trained, socialized, and up to date on shots
Your dog(s) will inevitably come into contact with other dogs and humans in the building. Make sure that before you move into your apartment you spend time training and socializing your dog so that there is minimal fighting, barking, and jumping on others. These behaviors can get you in big trouble with the landlord and if serious, can even lead to legal action against you in the case that someone is injured. You are held responsible for your pup! You also need to have up-to-date vaccination records and registration tags for your dogs for this same reason and the apartment building may require you to show proof before accepting your lease agreement. Check out this website that discusses socialization and training techniques and includes a list of commonly restricted dog breeds.
Overall, there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding whether or not it is possible to bring your furry friend(s) to Boston with you. It is absolutely possible to bring your buddy to the big city, but you will need support from another person and the financial means to do so. My last piece of advice is to consider the quality of life for you as well as for your dog. Honestly, in some cases, it might be best for your pup to leave them with a trusted friend or relative. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an important game of fetch to attend to...