Webinar presenter Jessica Simpson answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Pets and Evictions: Keeping Families Intact in a Crisis. Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Are there programs or agencies out there that can foster animals due to an eviction for a period of time, and if so, how do we find them?
Jessica Simpson: There are resources available for pets needing temporary placement, but most long- and short-term boarding programs are local so I would recommend checking with your local animal shelter to see what, if any, services are available for families facing housing insecurity. National organizations recognize the importance of these services too. Humane Animal Support Services has a database with existing temporary placement programs and I recently saw an article about a grant offered by PetSmart Charities to a Minneapolis shelter, Animal Humane Society, that’s meant to help families keep their pets in times of uncertainty.
Audience Question: Have you seen any research based on the work that you do with breed bans? Have you seen any research that would indicate that breed bans might be a way of implementing discriminatory practices?
Jessica Simpson: There is some research that suggests there is a correlation between the two issues. Ann Linder wrote a paper called The Black Man’s Dog, which examines the social context of breed-specific legislation (BSL) and Bronwen Dickey wrote an entire book about the history of the American Pit Bull Terrier and the controversial story about their beginnings and place in America. Unfortunately, the misinformation and myths surrounding pit bull-type dogs have deeply influenced public policy, insurance practices, homeowners, and apartment association rules, and do impact where a family can call home. We know that BSL is difficult to enforce, costly, subjective and has no measurable impact on increasing public safety. It’s often fueled by fear-mongering from BSL proponents and despite intention, the reality of breed-specific legislation is that it is unnecessarily burdensome on our limited local resources and tears families apart. If your community has BSL, I recommend reaching out to your HSUS state director We work tirelessly to overturn outdated breed-specific legislation and replace it with comprehensive breed-neutral dangerous dog laws, because community dog management should be based on behavior, and not based on perceived breed and there are numerous studies that point to how the breed is not indicative of animals’ behavior.
Audience Question: How would you go about or what would you do if someone leaves feral cats out and then they leave the apartment? Who is responsible for feeding and caring for the cat now that the tenant has left? Is it the landlord or the town or what do you find?
Jessica Simpson: I often hear a common reason someone has released their cat(s), is because their landlord has threatened their housing and told them no pets are allowed. If this is a situation that you or someone you know is facing, I would recommend is reaching out to your community’s animal shelter to see if they have some kind of community cat program where you can either trap and relocate those animals, or you can trap and spay-neuter vaccinate. If you have further questions about community cats, I recommend checking out our website at https://humanepro.org/community-cats or reaching out to my colleague, Danielle Bays, who specializes in this area.
Audience Question: Kind of goes back to that slide where you talk about the breakdown of the reasons that owners end up surrendering the animals. Is that information available where it breaks it down by age? Susan is interested in whether or not it’s disproportionately impacting the elderly, for example.
Jessica Simpson: Most of the information we have is based on survey data that’s been done by industry and is nationwide. Several organizations have done studies and collected data about reasons for pet relinquishment and most frequently cited are reasons related to human issues, not pet behavior. Typically, we see are too many pets, moving/housing issues, an issue related to the caretaker’s health, and financial. Most often the data is aggregated, but there are survey’s that break down the information that’s collected by demographics (including age).
Audience Question: They’re wondering whether or not landlords will make exceptions for victims of domestic or sexual violence who have to move immediately with a pet and whether or not there’s any legislation that provides protection for people in this situation.
Jessica Simpson: There is legislation to help fund for services for survivors of domestic violence to try and help build out resources at the community level including finding and funding temporary homes for them with their pets. If you are dealing with someone living in the private marketplace and the landlord doesn’t typically accept pets, you’d likely have to try working it out with them individually We’ve had success negotiating on behalf of clients in the past and advocating on their behalf to try and find a solution that allows the tenant to keep their pets and home. So, I would encourage anyone, if you’re ever in that situation, to work with a tenant, hopefully, the landlord would be accommodating and understanding for their circumstance, but I am not aware of legislation that mandates that a landlord accept a pet unless that person is applying for special accommodations, such as an assistance animal.
Audience Question: Our shelter just took in a dog that was 6 lbs. over the weight limit of a senior citizen high rise. Can you recommend any recourse or resources for the owner to allow the dog to be returned to her?
Jessica Simpson: That’s so tragic. One of the greatest barriers that we’re seeing behind breed is the weight issue because so many properties have such low weight restrictions—I’ve literally seen 15 lbs. limits for dogs. In these situations, I would recommend having the person evaluated to see if they qualify for an emotional support animal or assistance animal.. Unfortunately, I think that would be the only recourse that you can take aside from negotiating with the landlord to accept the pet on the basis that it’s only 6 lbs. over the limit. It’s so heartbreaking to hear stories like this and that’s why we at HSUS are working so hard to increase both supply and access to pet-inclusive affordable housing.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Pets and Evictions: Keeping Families Intact in a Crisis.