New HSUS Initiative Poised to Keep More Animals in Homes and Out of Shelters

By on September 17, 2015 with 13 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Renting a house or an apartment can be a challenge if you have a pet. If you have multiple pets, get ready for plenty of rejection.

Too many home and apartment owners exclude animals, thinking that the animals are going to damage the properties. That mentality shrinks the pool of living spaces for people and their pets. What’s worse, for people without many or sometimes any options, especially in underserved communities, it results in relinquishment of the animals to shelters.  In terms of nationwide statistics, about 40 percent of pets entering shelters don’t come out alive, making this an end-point for them. Our movement needs to tackle this problem, prevent this preventable loss of life, and remove this impediment to forging and maintaining the human-animal bond.

That is why I am so excited to announce today the launch of The HSUS’ Pets Are Welcome campaign, designed to transform pet policies in the housing industry to save lives and to allow people and their pets to stay together and do so without some major sacrifice.

The HSUS will work closely with the housing industry and housing providers to update outdated policies and restrictions that hurt animals: for instance, more than half of America’s dogs are medium to large mixed breeds, but housing providers and insurance companies fixate on restricting dogs by breed and size or weight. This practice is driven by fear of liability and based on myths about dogs, despite the fact that breed based regulations are rapidly declining around the country. Breed and size restrictions just don’t make sense, as a Chihuahua or Yorkie owner needs to be as responsible as a pit bill or Malamute owner.

Our Pets Are Welcome campaign will work to remove these restrictions by educating the housing industry and showing them that there is a huge demand for rental housing among people whose dogs are currently not welcome. To ensure that renters with pets are doing their best, we will also promote responsible behavior, providing problem-solving tips and guidance to renters with pets so that they are aligned with the vast majority of families whose pets are well-behaved, well-mannered, desirable renters.

Our long-term goal is to keep pets in their homes and increase adoptions. Currently, 35 percent of U.S. households rent, and according to industry polls, 72 percent of renters have pets. Millions of pets and their families depend on rental housing. All too often, we’ve heard of tragic stories like that of Rubin who was suddenly being pressured to give up his dog Red because of breed restrictions, despite having lived with Red in the same home for 11 years with no problems.

As a trillion dollar industry, the multi-family housing sector has the potential to play a tremendously positive role in building a more humane economy. When the industry went “pet-friendly” in the 1990s it was a result of the industry recognizing the increasing number of U.S. households with pets and the value of those pets in people’s lives. People were willing to pay extra deposits, fees, and even monthly pet rents. In the aggregate, this amounted to a financial opportunity to housing operators, since their customers wanted pet-related services. The trends have been moving in our direction. We see many people in the industry building on these principles, offering luxury amenities like dog parks, valet walking services, and grooming spas for residents with dogs. They recognize that you can have successful commerce while helping animals and pet owners at the same time.

Still, there are snags. Besides breed and weight restrictions, some other problem policies contain requirements for cats to be declawed. Age restrictions are common, with the ban extending to young puppies and kittens on one end, and senior pets on the other. Limiting the number of pets one may own is another prevalent practice.

We are celebrating the companies showing responsible and responsive policies. Twin Ponds at Nashua, New Hampshire, is a company that welcomes animals of all sizes and breeds, because, in its own words, the company believes it is mentally and physically good for people to have pets. The company has over 300 dogs in about 400 units at any given time and the units are always near full occupancy, with people waiting to move in. They were at full or near-full capacity even during the economic turndown, while neighboring apartment communities struggled.

Roscoe Properties, which offers rental units throughout Texas, Levitan Investment Properties, based in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Gumenick Properties, with communities in the Southeast, are other examples of Pets Are Welcome communities.

The HSUS is also working with industry leaders like the National Apartment Association, pairing our expertise on pet behavior and animal management with their industry knowledge, to be sure property owners and managers get advice and guidance they can trust.

What apartment owner or homeowner would tell a family that they cannot have a child or a grandparent come live with them? They are part of the family, and picking and choosing who can stay should be an unacceptable condition imposed on a renter. The same is true for pets. It’s time for the era of excluding pets to end. We are excited to help usher in that era and to normalize the idea that people should be able to keep their entire family together when they move into a new home.

Companion Animals

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  1. Rachael says:

    Here’s a tip from a landlord: Implying we don’t allow any and all pets because we aren’t educated or simply haven’t thought it through, accusing us of using pet fees and deposits as “financial opportunity,” not acknowledging the role of insurance companies in breed restrictions, and making asinine statements like “What apartment owner or homeowner would tell a family that they cannot have a child or a grandparent come live with them?” is not going to get the HSUS very far with landlords. (The answer to that question, by the way, is a resounding ALL OF THEM if that child or grandparent puts that unit over the legal occupancy limit.) This sounds like a great initiative. I like it. Painting landlords as the bad guys is not the way to go about it.

    It would be completely impractical for small to medium sized companies to pay exorbitant amounts for insurance that would allow their tenants to have pit bulls. Or deal with losing tenants because they’re scared of the breed and their neighbor has one. Size restrictions make a LOT of sense for a majority of complexes. That was another asinine statement that obviously was not given much thought. Big dogs in small spaces get bored. Bored dogs get destructive. Landlords whose prices are fair to begin with lose money on very damaged units in almost every case – exceptions involving an unusually long tenancy. It isn’t rocket science. If we ever built another complex it would most likely be pet friendly, but with restrictions. Existing no-pet ones would have to be essentially rebuilt. Floors and insulation are the biggest things that immediately come to mind that would have to be re-done to go pet friendly. Again, this sounds like a very great idea and it would be a huge help I’m sure for owners to have the HSUS as a resource to turn to when considering expanding their pet policies. People having to give up pets if they have to move and can’t find a place that allows animals is a problem. The tone of the post, though, is very off putting and isn’t likely to make many housing providers want to participate.

    I’m a HUGE animal lover. I’m a pit bull lover. I volunteer at my local shelter regularly and have come to love animals who were surrendered for some of the reasons listed above. That doesn’t mean I can snap my fingers and decide to open the doors to all kinds of animals just because I want to. Don’t be silly and act like it’s that easy to make changes to pet policies. You won’t be taken seriously.

    • Cory Smith says:

      Hi Rachael,

      I direct our Pets Are Welcome campaign and am grateful for your feedback. We certainly did not intend to imply anything negative about the intentions of housing operators. In fact, all of the individuals we have met from within the housing industry have been animal lovers, which is one of the reasons we are so encouraged. The majority of multifamily housing is already “pet-friendly” indicating that the human-animal bond is highly valued, and we believe the removal of breed and size restrictions is a realistic and inevitable goal. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about some of the barriers you mention below if you’d like to contact me at

      All the best,

    • diane aliperti says:

      No one was painting landlords as the “bad guys”! However, a little education about specific breeds never hurt anyone. Stop being so rigid and paranoid

  2. Jennifer says:

    Unfortunately I am a bully breed owner, my most current landlord has just been foreclosed on. So, I will be moving soon. I’ve looked for a bully breed friendly place, looks like I will be homeless with my dogs, because they are my family. My children are grown and in the Army. One of my dogs helps keep me alive, I suffer from major depression. So, I will be living in the woods with my dogs soon, from what I understand is the ignorance of insurance companies and landlords.

    • KC Theisen says:

      We understand the kind of challenges that can occur when searching for housing that welcomes all dogs. Tragically, housing problems are one of the main reasons that pets are given up to animal shelters. We don’t want you or your dogs to become part of this statistic! We suggest contacting your local animal shelters and rescue groups for suggestions or researching animal-friendly listings and realtors (look for a community apartment guidebook at your supermarket). Even if a landlord advertises “no pets,” it is worth asking if you can discuss the matter. Sometimes getting a letter of reference from your most recent landlord or allowing a potential landlord to meet your dogs can help. Look for more tips for renters, including how to build the case for your dogs, at

  3. Kimberly Gilmore says:

    I think it’s a great campaign! Can you start a campaign to help fosters/rescues for the cities to understand that dogs do not need 2,000 sq ft each. I am greatly limited to help because they feel each dog requires 2,000 sq ft. Help educating cities officials would be so greatly appreciated.

  4. Mardi Montgomery says:

    I have only glanced at this new initiative but what struck me immediately is that so much of this information is useless if there is no free legal assistance for those who need it to keep their pets. No point in telling people about legal resources when those resources don’t exist.

  5. Ellen Kane says:

    Please stop the slaughter of dogs….It breaks my heart to think you could be so cruel and heartless…..Mans best friend…….

  6. bobbie senn says:

    I need your helpI’m losing my cattery of 10 yrs because I’m losing my own home ,I have 20 cats and no one will help me place them,I’ve been every where to so many facilties .I’m begging for their lives and agencies that say there mission is to save animals will not help me.I will donate in order to get my cats a safe place before it’s to late.Humane SOCIETY Ineed your help

  7. Ardena says:

    i supported HSUS fully up until 2 years ago when they stepped to far from their original mission. This is a thinly veiled ploy to broaden the customer base for market share on shelter dogs. Clearly property rights of landlords are not as important as forcing shelter animals into places that are not suitable for them. The feral cat craziness has already costs many investment property owners a fortune to clean up after.Oakland had such a move made in 1989 by a local atty down there, wanted to force all investment property owners to accept pets. That is a huge financial burden as well as a liability. The foster situation is bad enough with these people turning residential communities into boarding kennels.owned animals have a pet limit, the fosters just ignore that law.

    • KC Theisen says:

      Hello Ardena, I am a lead on the Housing team, and appreciate your comments. One key goal of Pets Are Welcome is to ensure that property managers and owners are part of the solution for pets. We want better policies to be economically viable for the properties involved, as well as beneficial to animal welfare, and we are prepared to help everyone from individual rental owners to large-scale management companies achieve this.

  8. Tina says:

    I am so disappointed in HSUS.

    This will lead to nothing but cruelty and problems.

    It is ridiculous to believe that it is ok for someone in a small apartment with no or a shared yard, sharing hallways and stairs with many other tenants, should be able to have a large active dog. It is not fair for the dog either!

    It is responsible to choose a dog appropriate for your living situation. It is not one size fits all. THAT is cruel to many, canine and human.

    I already have seen so much suffering with situations like this. Bored, unhappy dogs who become destructive and even aggressive, lunging at other tenants, barking, and disturbing the peace of all. Encouraging people to hate and resent dogs. Neighbors who must suffer because a tenant gets an inappropriate dog. Dogs that are miserable because they live in an inappropriate living situation.

    You can preach “responsible” all you want, but large, active dogs don’t belong in shared housing with no or shared yards, and in close space with many people who don’t deserve that imposition.

    This is called COMMON SENSE.

    People need to get pets that suit their situations, not force inappropriate choices on everyone else.

    Instead of creating problems, how about doing the obvious and REDUCING THE NUMBER OF UNWANTED DOGS BEING BRED THAT THEN END UP IN SHELTERS.

    I have given many thousands to HSUs, but this harebrained scheme is the last straw. Even if you don’t care about people, at least care about the dogs. You aren’t, and all the frivolous propaganda and grandstanding don’t cover that.

    • cory smith says:

      Thank you for your comments, Tina. Actually, many large dogs make great apartment dogs. Some large dogs are not as active as others. The key to having an active dog of any size and in any environment is providing activity and enrichment. Most dog owners are managing their dogs appropriately and people with medium to large dogs make fine residents in multi-family and other rental housing. More and more Americans are renting their homes so it is even more important to address this important issue than ever before.

      The HSUS is committed to ensuring that people with pets have access to the information, resources and services needed to prevent the types of problems you mention. Most people are taking great care of their pets so we know we can trust them to do so regardless of the size of their home. People living on the streets or in their cars for lack of affordable housing with pets would certainly appreciate the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their pet’s well-being if given the chance to live in an apartment.

      In addition to our Pets Are Welcome program, The HSUS has many programs and resources working to reduce pet homelessness such as our Pets For Life program delivering spay/neuter and other critical resources to pet owners in under-served communities, and our campaign to end Puppy Mills. Our work impacts animal homelessness and suffering at the roots, and to do that it is critical to eliminate the barriers that lead to their separation from people who love them. Housing reasons have been on the top of that list for decades and The HSUS is proud to be changing that.

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