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Pets in Public Housing???It???s the Law!

New provision helps public housing residents keep their pets

New provision helps public housing residents keep their pets

© Margaret Georgiann
"Moving” and “landlord won’t allow” are frustrating and all-too-familiar reasons given for animal surrender. While these reasons often obscure deeper explanations for relinquishment of a pet, the availability of animal-friendly housing is nonetheless a key factor in keeping pets and people together.

And until recently, animal-friendly accommodations were even scarcer for those who relied on public assistance. But a new provision of the Quality Housing and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 may help change that; section 526 now provides residents of federally assisted public housing the opportunity to have a companion animal.

Although some Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) had already implemented the new provision, it was made official in all communities at the end of 2001. Previously, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rules allowed only elderly individuals or people with disabilities to have animals.

The new rule suggests that PHAs set “reasonable requirements” by charging residents a nominal fee to cover potential damage from pets; asking for a refundable pet deposit; allowing only “traditional pets”; and limiting the number of pets residents are allowed to keep.

The HSUS, the ASPCA, and many other animal welfare organizations were members of the Pets in Housing Coalition that worked with HUD to get the provision passed. The coalition worked hard to ensure that only responsible pet owners were given the opportunity to have a companion animal; unfortunately, many of the recommendations the coalition made during the legislative process—such as mandatory spay/neuter surgeries for pets in public housing—were not included in the provision. However, sterilization requirements and other stipulations can be set by local housing managers of individual developments, provided they do not violate the spirit of the law.

To learn more about the issue of animal-friendly rental properties, check out The HSUS’s online resource for pet owners and property owners and managers at You’ll find information on ordering “13 Steps to Finding Rental Housing that Accepts Pets,” a guide for pet owners seeking housing, and “Profiting from Pets,” a guide for housing managers. To read an article about shelter-related programs, visit the Back Issues section of our site and check out the January-February 1999 issue of Animal Sheltering. And if you haven’t already received the ASPCA’s “Model Pet Ownership Policy,” a guide for successful pet ownership in rental and public housing, contact the ASPCA at 212-876-7700, ext. 4550;


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