SACRAMENTO, CA—On Friday, Sept. 2, in the midst of an ongoing housing crisis in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 971 to prevent further displacement of vulnerable families and their pets. State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) introduced the legislation, which will protect California’s low-income pet owners and help create more affordable housing communities. SB 971 will improve the supply of affordable rental housing that allows pets. In addition, the new law expands access to such subsidized units by incentivizing the development of pet-inclusive, low-income housing. Certain housing providers will not be permitted to restrict pets based on their breed or weight. They will also not be allowed to charge non-refundable pet-related fees, such as “pet rent,” on top of regular security deposits and monthly rent. This applies to housing financed through the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee and the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

An overwhelming number of animals enter California’s shelters due to factors impacting their owners’ ability to care for them, many of which are often beyond the owners’ control. Housing, moving or landlord issues are among the most commonly cited reasons for pet surrenders. SB 971 will build upon existing law by expanding pet-inclusive policies for housing that is financed through the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).

“The Humane Society of the United States firmly believes that pets are family, and family is never disposable. Housing is a foundational building block in creating equity for pet ownership and keeping families together,” said Jenny Berg, California state director for the HSUS. “SB 971 prevents individuals from having to choose between keeping a beloved pet and finding an affordable place to live—a devastating choice no one should have to confront.  We thank Sen. Newman for authoring this important legislation and we are grateful to Gov. Newsom for signing SB 971 into law.”

“People living in or seeking affordable rental housing should not be forced to experience the anguish and strain of relinquishing a beloved pet,” said Sen. Josh Newman. “SB 971 will ensure that more California families will be able to move into safe and affordable housing with their canine, feline or other animal members of the family.”

This legislation will mean more families across California should be able to remain intact—even in times of crisis, when the companionship of a beloved pet is most important. California has consistently prioritized the bond between people and their pets, and we are so proud to have worked alongside Sen. Newman to help ensure Californians living in or seeking affordable rental housing are not forced to experience the anguish of relinquishing a cherished pet because of a lack of safe, affordable housing.

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