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Congress Members Cite MFA’s Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative Report in Introducing the ‘Pets Belong with Families Act’

Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), and Cori Bush (D-MO) cited Michelson Found Animals Foundation’s recent Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative (PIHI) report today when introducing a new bill to Congress that would allow families to keep their beloved pets in the home by prohibiting vague and sweeping restrictions against dogs based on breed or size.

“More than 25 million U.S. pet owners are renters, including public housing tenants,” the Congress members said in a statement. “A recent inclusive housing survey found that the vast majority of rental property owners and operators face restrictions on pets – rules that often include blanket bans on dog breeds that are considered ‘dangerous’ such as pit bulls and rottweilers, or dogs that simply resemble these breeds, regardless of more than 20 years of data showing that calculating bite rates for specific breeds is virtually impossible.

“At their worst, such bans can exacerbate housing insecurity for low-income pet owners who understandably don’t want to part with their companions. More than 70% of residents in the 2021 [PIHI] survey reported that pet-friendly housing is difficult to find, and 59% reported pet-friendly housing as too expensive.”

If passed, the Pets Belong with Families Act would prohibit pet restrictions based exclusively on breed in public housing, while still allowing for discretion with regard to potentially dangerous individual animals. Dr. Gary Michelson, founder of MFA, called for similar legislation last month during Pet Week on Capitol Hill, hosted by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute.

“Now is precisely the right time to rethink the policies and procedures that have been mandated by government or imposed by businesses that interfere with a family’s ability to have a pet in rental housing,” Michelson said.

The bill is supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

“For millions of Americans, pets are cherished members of their families. But far too often, pet owners are forced to make impossible choices between their beloved companions and secure housing due to overly-broad restrictions on dog breeds that don’t make communities safer,” Rep. Schiff said. “The Pets Belong with Families Act would remove these unfair barriers for residents of public housing because no one should have to forfeit an affordable and stable home to stay with the pet they love.”

“Far too often pet owners are forced to choose between surrendering their beloved pet or securing safe and stable housing due to discriminatory breed-specific regulations,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said. “Breed-specific restrictions have consistently proven to be an ineffective solution to enhancing public safety. Our bipartisan legislation will put an end to this unfair and inhumane practice and ensure that responsible pet owners are not forced into housing instability due to unnecessary breed bans.” 

“Housing is a human right, period,” Rep. Bush said. “No family should be denied that right because of archaic rules barring certain pet breeds from public housing in this country. Our pets are often integral members of our families, and we can’t ask our neighbors to simply leave them behind. There is no evidence that breed-specific laws make apartments any safer for people or their pets. I am grateful to my colleague Representative Schiff for his partnership on this bipartisan bill, which will eliminate a barrier that our Black and brown community members face when securing safe and stable housing.”

To read the full bill, click here.