Animal Welfare

No Such Thing as a 'Bad Breed': Animal Advocates Push to End Dog Discrimination in Public Housing

Certain breeds still aren't welcome in public housing.
Certain breeds still aren't welcome in public housing. Photo by Jason Pofahl on Unsplash
Some dogs get bad raps as dangerous beasts, but many who own pit bulls, German shepherds and Rottweilers would insist that their canines are harmless. Still, certain public housing authorities can opt to ban breeds haunted by bad stigma.

Breed myths have led to families being separated from their beloved furry friend, and Texas is unfortunately a leader when it comes to shelter killings. The Lone Star State has one of the highest numbers of pets euthanized each year, according to a news release from Best Friends Animal Society, a nonprofit animal welfare organization.

Nationwide, there are 100,000 more pets in shelters today than there were this time last year, but Best Friends and other animal advocates are trying to change that. The primary reason people say they surrender their dogs is because of housing barriers, said Laura Donahue, the group’s director of legislation and advocacy.

Sometimes, a dog owner must choose between keeping their pet or having a home. “That’s pretty tragic because that’s a human problem, so the No. 1 reason is no fault of the dog; it’s not because of the dog’s behavior or anything like that,” Donahue said. “There’s no question that takes a toll on families, because we know that people feel their pet is their family.”

Donahue and fellow animal advocates are urging Congress to pass a law that would end pet discrimination in public housing. But it isn’t the first push to prohibit the practice.

Last year, the state House passed a bill that, if enacted, would have forced pet-friendly housing authorities to comply with local restrictions on dangerous dogs, meaning that they couldn’t forbid specific breeds. Dallas Democratic state Rep. John Turner and his colleague, Denton Republican Lynn Stucky, a veterinarian, were joint authors of the bill.

Meanwhile, more than 60,000 public housing units dot the state of Texas, according to WFAA.

“I know firsthand the joy pets can bring to a home." – U.S. Rep. Colin Allred

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Even though the state's legislation sputtered out last session, Congress is considering something similar.

The Pets Belong with Families Act would prohibit breed-based pet restrictions in public housing while still permitting discretion based on dangerous behavior. It has gained bipartisan congressional support, including from Texas’ own U.S. Rep. Colin Allred.

The Dallas Democrat, who was once an official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said he is proud to back the effort.

“I know firsthand the joy pets can bring to a home and it breaks my heart that Texas has the highest rate of animals killed in shelters. But there is bipartisan action we can take to help more animals find loving homes,” Allred said by email. “Congress can reform our laws so federally supported housing allows more breeds for families that want to give a pet in need a good and loving home.”


Several organizations also support the bill, such as the American Kennel Club and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Donahue argues that it’s not right to have taxpayer-funded housing facilities establishing criteria based on how a dog looks, which does not determine how they’ll behave. Those who rely on public housing likely have few options, so being displaced could lead to living on the streets or in homeless shelters, she said.

Even boxers have made certain banned breed lists, a fact that Donahue said made her “laugh out loud.” (The American Kennel Club describes boxers as intelligent, playful, loyal and excellent with children.)

When the coronavirus pandemic first hit, animal shelters nationwide reported getting emptied out as people rushed to adopt. That’s no longer the case, she said.

Donahue asks people to contact their U.S. representatives and urge them to co-sponsor the bill: “This is one tiny step in the right direction, and something that we can do to prevent people from having to choose between their home and their family pet.”
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Simone Carter is a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer who graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter

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