Some dogs get a bad rap as dangerous beasts, but many owners of Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers would insist that their canines are harmless. Still, certain public housing authorities may choose to ban breeds beset by bad stigma.
Myths about race have led to families being separated from their beloved furry friend, and sadly, Texas leads when it comes to shelter murders. The Lone Star State has one of the highest numbers of pets euthanized each year, according to a news release from the Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit animal welfare organization.
Across the country, there are 100,000 more pets in shelters today than this time last year, but Best Friends and other animal advocates are trying to change that. The main reason people say they give up their dogs is because of housing barriers, said Laura Donahue, the group’s director of legislation and advocacy.
Sometimes a dog owner must choose between keeping their pet or having a home. “That’s pretty tragic because it’s a human problem, so the number 1 reason is not the dog’s fault; it’s not because of the dog’s behavior or anything like that,” Donahue said. “There’s no question that affects families, because we know that people feel like their pet is their family.”
Donahue and other animal advocates are urging Congress to pass legislation that would end pet discrimination in public housing. But it is not the first impulse to ban the practice.
Last year, the House of Representatives passed a bill that, if passed, would have forced pet-friendly housing authorities to comply with local restrictions on dangerous dogs, meaning they couldn’t ban specific breeds. Dallas Democratic state Rep. John Turner and his colleague, veterinarian Lynn Stucky, R-Denton, co-authored the bill.
Meanwhile, more than 60,000 public housing units dot the state of Texas, according to WFAA.
“I know firsthand the joy that pets can bring to a home.” – US Representative Colin Allred
Although the state legislation failed last session, Congress is considering something similar.
The Pets Belong with Families Act would ban breed-based pet restrictions in public housing and allow discretion based on dangerous behavior. He has garnered bipartisan support from Congress, including from Texas’s own US Representative, Colin Allred.
The Dallas Democrat, who was once an official with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, said he is proud to support the effort.
“I know firsthand the joy that pets can bring to a home and it breaks my heart that Texas has the highest rate of animals killed in shelters. But there is bipartisan action we can take to help more animals find loving homes,” Allred said by email. “Congress can reform our laws so that federally supported housing allows more breeds for families who want to give a pet in need a good, loving home.”
Several organizations also support the bill, such as the American Kennel Club and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Donahue argues that it is wrong for taxpayer-funded housing facilities to set criteria based on a dog’s appearance, which does not determine how it will behave. Those who rely on public housing likely have few options, so being displaced could lead to living on the streets or in homeless shelters, he said.
Even boxers have made certain lists of banned breeds, a fact that Donahue said made her “laugh out loud.” (The American Kennel Club describes Boxers as intelligent, playful, loyal, and excellent with children.)
When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, animal shelters across the country reported emptying out as people rushed to adopt. That is no longer the case, he said.
Donahue asks people to contact their representatives in the US and urge them to co-sponsor the bill: “This is a small step in the right direction and something we can do to prevent people from having to choose between your home and your family pet. ”