Hi Kristin. Board approval is mere formality and yes, you would need to bring your pet(s) as well. Before you even get an interview the board has gone over the board package which has all of your financial documentation, letters of referral, loan committment papers, credit check, etc. In short the package is a dossier with all of your information. If you were deficient in some area (like income/assets/credit) your application would probably be turned down with no scheduled interview. The point is that if you are indeed qualified, the approval process is nothing to be concerned with.
You will seriously limit property that would be otherwise acceptable if you stick with the no approval aspect. To my mind and probably other brokers looking at this thread, your no approval thing is a red flag. It will cause concern that there is something else that might make you less desirable as a new shareholder.
As far as location is concerned, get yourself a broker and move forward. Good luck.