By KIMBERLEY HAAS
As pet owners think about what their next move will be if they have to sell their homes due to the economic backlash of the pandemic, some organizations are advocating for increasing options for renters with dogs and cats.
According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a survey of 5,020 people shows that during March of 2020 and May of 2021 a total of 19% of respondents said they had acquired a dog or cat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s works out to an approximated 23 million American households who adopted a pet during those 14 months.
When the pet owners were asked what their top concerns were as COVID restrictions lift, 15% said they were worried they may not be able to stay in their home.
Despite concerns, 87% of dog and cat owners said they would not consider rehoming their pet in the next three months.
Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO said in a statement released at the time that the stress of COVID motivated people to foster and adopt animals, as well as further cherish the pets already in their lives.
“Our recent research shows no significant risk of animals being rehomed by their owners now or in the near future as a result of the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions,” Bershadker said.
“Pets are still providing their families with joy and comfort, regardless of changes in circumstances, and loving owners continue to recognize and appreciate the essential role pets play in their lives.”
But the reality is, for many Americans, the economic backlash of the pandemic has become too much to bear and some are at risk of losing their houses.
Leaders in California unveiled plans this month to keep pandemic-impacted homeowners from losing their houses by offering up to $80,000 in grants to owners behind on their mortgage payments, according to Jeff Collins of Southern California News Group.
So as people are being forced to think about rehoming themselves, non-profit organizations are working to convince rental property owners to allow more animals.
According to advocates at The Humane Society of the United States, issues with finding and keeping rental housing leads to the surrender of half a million pets to shelters each year.
Organizational leaders say that despite claims from the rental housing industry that up to 78% of apartment buildings accept pets, weight limits and breed restrictions exclude many pets.
The Humane Society has a recommended pet policy for condominiums and apartment buildings, which can be found here.
The nonprofit organizations Michelson Found Animals Foundation and Human Animal Bond Research Institute released a Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative Report in July, which outlines a path to create more than 8 million new pet-friendly rental homes in the United States.
“Michelson Found Animals and HABRI developed this report to provide clear and detailed market-based strategies that benefit all – housing owner/operators, residents, and our beloved pets, who have been so important to us during the pandemic,” Brett Yates, CEO of Michelson Found Animals, said in a statement at the time.
The report includes research and resources, including these key findings:
Easing Restrictions on Pet Friendly Housing Makes Economic Sense
-83% of owner/operators say pet-friendly vacancies are filled faster
-79% say that they are easier to fill
People Love Pets
-98% of residents with pets and 92% of all residents surveyed consider pets to be important members of the family
-93% of housing owners/operators consider pets to be important members of the family
-76% of housing owner/operators identify their properties as allowing some pets, which reflects a willingness to accommodate pets
Current Restrictions Limit Pet-Friendliness
-72% of residents say pet-friendly housing is hard to find
-59% of residents say pet-friendly housing is too expensive
-92% of pet-friendly housing places some restrictions on the type, number, breed, or weight of pets
-35% of non-pet-owning residents say they would get a pet if restrictions on their rental housing were lifted
-33% of pet-owning residents say they would get another pet if restrictions on their rental housing were lifted
Lenders and realtors should take notice. Finding a place for Fido is not only a conversation being had in the rental market, it’s affecting home purchasing decisions.
For those Americans who are fortunate enough to be searching for a larger home to accommodate working from home and hybrid schedules, research from Zillow shows that pet owners are more likely to buy larger homes with more bedrooms and they are more likely to consider private outdoor space important.
“Pets are widely considered part of the American family, so it follows that they can factor into moving decisions,” Manny Garcia, Population Scientist at Zillow, said in a statement at the time.
Email story ideas to Editor Kimberley Haas: [email protected]