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It's cruel and counterproductive to bar pets at homeless and low-income housing

It's cruel and counterproductive to bar pets at homeless and low-income housing
Santiago Robles, 60, stands outside his tent on South Hope Street in Los Angeles on March 5. Santiago is a homeless man and lives inside the tent with his friend and his dog. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

It’s difficult enough to find affordable housing in Los Angeles without having to give up your pet as a condition of moving in. But with so few apartments available and so many buildings adopting no-pet policies, Angelenos often face exactly that grim choice.

Now the City Council is considering an ordinance that would require developers of city-subsidized housing projects — including the thousands of units financed by Proposition HHH for homeless and impoverished people — to let residents keep their pets.

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The proposal should be approved.

Aides to Councilmember Paul Koretz, who authored the ordinance, say that according to data compiled by pet shelters, 10% to 30% of owners who have relinquished their pets over the last decade have done so because of housing restrictions. It is not clear how many of those owners were in subsidized apartments as opposed to market rate housing.

The bond between people and their pets can be so fierce that some people will choose their pets over housing and safety.


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Here is what we do know: The bond between people and their pets can be so fierce that some people will choose their pets over housing and safety. Homeless people will often stay on the street rather than go into a shelter with a no-pet policy, said Brenda Barnette, general manager of L.A. Animal Services, at a committee hearing. That’s why the mayor’s new bridge housing shelter program allows people to bring pets.

Under the proposed ordinance, developers applying for funding through Proposition HHH or any of the affordable housing finance programs administered by the city would have to allow residents to keep pets. This doesn’t break much new ground. A state law already requires housing financed by the California Department of Housing and Community Development after January of this year to be pet-friendly. Federally subsidized housing for elderly and handicapped people must allow common household pets within certain guidelines. No landlord — whether government-subsidized or not — may bar emotional support or service animals.

Some developers of housing for homeless people allow pets now. But some don’t, citing concerns about the potential nuisance pets may pose to other tenants, the extra wear and tear on apartments or the limits of how much they can reasonably charge poor or homeless people for a pet security deposit. But these are issues that can and should be addressed in the ordinance.

The city should have common-sense rules that tenants are expected to follow as a condition of keeping their apartments. The city could set limits on number and type of pets. It should require that pets be spayed and neutered — which is already city law — and help tenants pay for it.

The goal is to move thousands of homeless Angelenos off the streets and into housing. Pet restrictions should not be one more barrier to doing so.

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