Almost 20 million dogs and cats live in a home that is not current on their rent or mortgage payments according to a recent survey and with a moratorium on eviction set to expire at the end of this month if Congress and the incoming Administration do not act, we may be on the verge of a crisis.

What can shelters do to prepare? At a minimum, expand pet retention programs, foster care networks, and rescue partnerships. They could also go further, such as partnering with boarding facilities and developing services that help people rehome animals themselves.

But there is also one big effort that would go very far in mitigating the crisis: eliminating housing discrimination for people whose families include a dog, cat, or other animal companion. A study determined that doing so would allow 8.75 million animals to find new homes, roughly six years worth of killing in U.S. pounds. Even before the pandemic, it found that one in four renters lost their home because of a restriction on housing.

Although the study did not propose a legislative solution, The No Kill Advocacy Center has long called for protecting pets in rental housing by extending existing federal laws prohibiting housing discrimination for families with children to animal companions. In addition, current law that requires owners of properties that are designated for the elderly or handicapped persons and are either subsidized or insured by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development to allow residents to live with a pet should apply more broadly. The No Kill Advocacy Center has even written model legislation to do so.

As we face the worst public health crisis since 1918 and the worst economic crisis since 1933, animals are completely reliant on us for their welfare. We must rise to the challenge according to the gravity of what the occasion demands. Our fellow non-human Americans should be protected from ending up on the street or worse, on death row at a pound that does not take its obligations seriously.

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