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Pet-friendly apartments, businesses attract dog-owners to Downtown

By Emily Chu
Published: Friday, June 29, 2012, at 08:13AM
Emily Chu

LaChance's dog, Cavalli (which means "little horse" in Italian), stands outside of his apartment building on 6th and Spring.

Both developers and longstanding businesses in DTLA are adopting pet-friendly policies to attract a growing demographic of Downtowners -- and the burgeoning dog population in the area suggests that this approach is working.

Bark Avenue's Pet Project is a tiny boutique that sells supplies ranging from the classic kibble and pooper- scoopers, to complete dog outfits reminiscent of human clothing as well as pastries for pooches. On a typical weekday afternoon, people and their dogs cycle in and out of Pet Project with surprising frequency.

Casey Dadt, a 25-year-old freelance production coordinator, walked in holding his puppy Darcy to check on a custom dog collar order he placed. The vast amount of dog-friendly apartments and thus, tenants, have created what he affectionately refers to as the "Downtown dog community."

Dadt said he moved Downtown three years ago, aware of the neighborhood's pet-friendly atmosphere but not a dog-owner himself. He adopted his first dog last year, and when she passed away in April, neighbors filled his apartment with flowers and helped him through the mourning process, he said.

"[It] just made me love the Downtown community even more because we're a family down here," Dadt said. "The dogs bring us together because they're our kids."

Cristina Fuentes, 30, is Pet Project's manager. She first moved Downtown six years ago and said the transition toward pet-friendly rent policies came when "they realized the type of tenants they wanted were those without kids but with animals."

"If Downtown wasn't so pet-friendly, a lot of people wouldn't move here," she said.

So what type of person, exactly, are these policies trying to attract?

"Well, me!" Dadt said, laughing, "The single, younger dog- owners who are responsible and pay their bills."

UnderGround Smoke Shop's owner LaChance fits this profile exactly. For him, finding a pet-friendly neighborhood was the clincher when he moved from New York two years ago.

He had his Rottweiler Cavalli sitting next to him behind the counter as he worked.

The number of businesses that accommodate, or even welcome dogs is increasing Downtown. Ralph Verdugo, owner of the Los Angeles Brewing Company, said he built his bar, which opened earlier this year, with dogs in mind.

He recognized that these Downtown dog owners needed a place to hang out with their pets, and what he dubs "The Doggie Bar" is filling this void. The Doggie Bar is a small fenced-off area with a patch of grass, located outside of the brewing company. Owners can drop off their dogs with the security guard/pet-sitter, and go inside to enjoy a beer or two.

"People come from the Westside just to use the dog patio," Verdugo said.

But it isn't just new businesses opening that are adopting dog-friendly policies. Andrew Quintana, the bartender at the Downtown bar The Down and Out, said they sometimes allow dogs onto their outdoor patio.

The Down and Out has had a dog-friendly reputation in the neighborhood for years, Fuentes said, and Dadt nodded in agreement.

Quintana has lived Downtown for several years and observed the boom in dog owners from the sidelines. He doesn't have a dog himself, but he's looking forward to getting one in the near future, he said.


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