Councilmember Robert White Joins George Washington Law Students and Humane Rescue Alliance to Introduce Pets in Housing Act

For immediate release:

WASHINGTON, DC (May 22, 2024) –Today, Councilmember White introduced the Pets in Housing Act, the country’s most ambitious pets and housing bill to-date. Councilmember White was proud to work with the George Washington University Law School Animal Welfare Project and the Humane Rescue Alliance to develop this bill that makes commonsense reforms to meet the housing needs of our residents. Too often, exorbitant pet move-in fees or pet rent put housing out of reach for residents. Many residents report facing housing discrimination because of the breed of their pet. And unhoused residents frequently make the choice to stay outside rather than going into a shelter where they’ll be required to separate from a beloved pet.

For many, pets are an integral part of their family. The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that up to 65 percent of people experiencing domestic violence do not leave home to escape their abuser because they worry about what will happen to their pet. Pets also provide significant health benefits. Studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets is linked to several health benefits, including Decreased blood pressure, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD.

This bill accomplishes several things:

  • Caps the allowable pet security deposit at $300 and monthly pet rent at $25 per month
  • Bans nonrefundable pet fees altogether for residents with low incomes who live in subsidized housing
  • Bans restrictions or differing fees for particular breeds
  • Requires the Department of Human Services to ensure that at least one low barrier shelter is available for individuals or families experiencing homelessness who have a pet

“When we reduce housing barriers to pets, we reduce discrimination and displacement for people,” said Councilmember White. “While legislation keeping people with their pets may seem lighthearted, the impact is anything but: we’ll have fewer people turned away from housing, fewer unhoused residents sleeping outside out of fear of being separated from a pet, and more domestic violence survivors seeking safety.”

Students from the George Washington University Law School Animal Welfare Project said, “As law students, we spend most of our time in the classroom learning what the law is. The Animal Welfare Project provides a unique opportunity to impact the community and work towards changing the law to protect humans and animals. With guidance from our Professor Joan Schaffner and animal and policy advocates from around the District and across the country, we researched the housing barriers for people with pets and worked alongside Councilmember White’s office to draft this legislation to keep people and their companions together and increase the number of available homes for DC’s homeless animals. We are grateful to Councilmember White for prioritizing this issue and giving us the opportunity to be a voice for District residents and their pets while also honing our advocacy skills.”

“There are far too many people in DC who face the devastating decision of whether to relinquish their pets due to housing bias and the scarcity of pet-friendly accommodations,” said Lisa LaFontaine, CEO of Humane Rescue Alliance. “Each time a family must give up a beloved pet, a piece of our community fabric is torn. We are thankful for Councilmember White’s leadership and recognition that DC residents consider pets to be integral family members. We will work closely with his team to pass this legislation so more families can stay intact.”

“Councilmember Robert White is always looking out for the underdog, in this case, literally,” said Max Broad, Executive Director of DC Voters for Animals. “When we improve conditions for the most marginalized dog breeds in need of stable homes, we simultaneously improve conditions for people and animals across the city.”

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