A bill introduced on November 2, 2021, by Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, known as the Pets Belong With Families Act or House Bill 5828, would ban any public housing that forbids specific pet breeds in their building.
Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Doberman Pinschers are the common pet dog breeds perceived to be dangerous and aggressive that get banned from being housed in most public housing.
The bill would still allow public housing to limit the number of animals per household and ban certain animals that have a history of aggressive behavior.
However, federal housing programs that offset payments to private landlords would not be included in the bill.
It is awaiting a vote in the House Financial Services Committee.
Judging A Dog By How It Looks
Rep. Schiff, who worked with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society, said that the new bill would “remove 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.”
Around 1.2 million families live in public housing, and some of them are dog owners who own dog breeds that are considered dangerous. They usually are turned away by would-be landlords when it is disclosed that they own a Pit Bull or a Rottweiler.
According to Canine Journal, Pit Bulls accounted for more than 60% of dog attacks in the United States between 2014 and 2020.
Jessica Simpson, a public policy specialist from the Humane Society, said that the restrictions prevent some dog owners from finding suitable and affordable housing and also force some of them to abandon their pets.
“Housing insecurity remains one of the top reasons pets are relinquished to animal shelters,” Simpson said.
Some dog owners are said to opt to sleep in their car rather than part with their beloved pet.
Judging A Dog By What It Does
Supporters of the bill also argue that many of these “scary-looking” dogs actually work as emotional support animals or service animals. One such pet owner is Donald Morehead, a Real Change vendor who owns two Pit Bulls.
Morehead was almost rejected to live in a boarding house in Capitol Hill several years ago until he convinced the property manager that his dogs are adequately trained and that they help him with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to one study, there are also instances that pets help people deal with their psychological and mental problems, such as preventing suicides and drug use.
James Ha, an applied animal behaviorist at the University of Washington, said that dog attacks are indeed a problem. But, there is a better solution to it rather than banning breed-specific dogs.
He suggested restrictions according to size, starting at around 80 lbs, which is a fairer and more practical way to lessen the risk of dog attacks.
Another solution, he said, is to have an evaluation of the would-be tenant’s dog by an animal behavior expert during the application process.
Morehead said that a dog should be evaluated by how it interacts with people and other animals rather than on the way it looks, saying, “Just like a kid, if you don’t raise a kid up with manners and respect and teach it how to use the bathroom, it’s not going to know how to do none of that.”