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Statement on Pets and Rental Housing

Housing issues should never cost pets their homes

  • Housing problems can separate pets and families, but rental companies can help families and their own bottom lines by establishing smart pet policies. Photo: Nancy Peterson/The HSUS

Why does The Humane Society of the United States have a position about rental housing policies?

Because we envision a world where people and pets live happy, healthy lives, thriving together. And we work to eliminate barriers to that goal.

Sadly, one of those barriers is a lack of rental housing that is truly welcoming to pets.

People with pets often struggle to find housing that accepts their whole family. That lack of accessible housing often has disastrous consequences.

Some people are forced to relinquish their pets to shelters, ripping those families apart. Being forced to choose between a beloved pet and a safe home can have detrimental impacts on people’s physical health and emotional well-being, and contributes to the euthanasia of nearly 3 million healthy, adoptable dogs and cats in shelters each year. In some cases, people would rather live on the streets than give up their animals.

We believe housing issues should never cost pets their homes. 

Barriers to pets being welcome on properties are not good for pets or their families. And they are not good for landlords and housing providers, either. Housing providers who do not allow pets are missing out on a huge segment of the rental market—an estimated 72 percent of renters have pets.

Although “pet friendly” housing has become more common, the industry standard for “pet friendly” still contains limitations and restrictions on types, ages and sizes of pets that severely restrict the rental housing market. Such policies are based on misinformation and myth rather than data, and property managers who establish such arbitrary restrictions are missing out on large segments of the pet-owning population—families who would make great residents.

A housing provider with a policy that welcomes pets:

  • Increases its pool of potential renters
  • Enables more careful screening of those renters
  • Gains longer-term and more stable residents, with no associated negative financial impact.

The HSUS is partnering with the housing industry to further a more humane economy. Through broader policies that will significantly benefit landlords and renters alike, we are improving options for renters with pets, and dramatically diminishing the number of families forced to choose between their pets and their homes.

The Big Picture

The Facts About Pets in Housing

  • Housing policies that restrict pets based on breed are arbitrary and based on misconceptions. Smart policies take owner and animal behavior into account instead.

  • There is nothing about a pet’s size that indicates what their behavior will be like or what their needs may be. Some large dogs are couch potatoes, and some small dogs are high-energy, making size restrictions not only ill-advised, but often counterproductive.
  • A dog’s breed is not predictive of his behavior or suitability for rental housing living. Restricting by breed does not prevent undesired dog behaviors, and it keeps some great residents from considering those housings that have such arbitrary restrictions.
  • The Centers for Disease Control, the American Veterinary Medical Association, and insurance companies like State Farm agree that breed-specific policies are ineffective and inhumane.
  • 19 states have enacted laws to prohibit breed-specific restrictions in their states. Between January 2012 and May 2014, 61 localities rejected such policies, and 97 local level breed bans were repealed,[4] demonstrating a strong trend away from breed-based laws. They are ineffective and have never proven to protect public health and safety.
  • Research has shown that pet-owning residents do not cause more damage or cost more to house than residents who don’t own pets. In fact, indications are that pets cause less property damage than children.
  • Arbitrary limitations on numbers of pets in a household do nothing to ensure high quality animal care, since one individual may be unable to adequately care for a single pet, while another might provide exceptional care for multiple animals. Establishing clear and enforceable standards of behavior and care is a more successful way of avoiding pet problems than arbitrary limits on pet numbers.
  • Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Fair Housing laws recognize the value of the human-animal bond and include legal protections for renters with pets; however, those legal measures shouldn’t be necessary to ensure that resident/pet relationships are preserved.

What is a truly welcoming policy?

The HSUS is committed to supporting landlord and property management companies in adopting rental policies that truly welcome pets. An effective policy:

  • Takes the facts above into account and does not contribute unintentionally and unnecessarily to pet homelessness or the separation of pets from their families;
  • Recognizes that pets are part of the family, provide emotional and physical benefits and are not disposable at any stage in their lifetimes;
  • Does not contain arbitrary restrictions based on considerations like breed, size, age or number of companion animals;
  • Establishes reasonable pet deposits and fees as supported by actual data regarding damage caused by pets, costs of pet amenities, etc., rather than assumptions or misapprehensions;
  • Contains pet rules that are fair and equitable, disclosed in writing upon initiation of the tenancy and ensure that processes for handling pet-related complaints or violations are designed to preserve both the resident/landlord and resident/pet relationship to the greatest extent possible;
  • Holds pet owners accountable for their actions managing their pets. Good pet-owning residents must be respectful of and avoid disruption to other residents on the property.

The HSUS encourages all property owners to revisit their current polices to ensure that they meet the above criteria. 

We stand ready to assist rental properties that want to support pets and their families by establishing a truly welcoming pet policy.

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