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Pets Allowed: Proposed State Measure Would Allow Critters In Public Housing

Olivia Mitchell
NPR Illinois 91.9 FM
State Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Aurora), center, presents SB2973 at a press conference in Springfield on Feb. 18

Pet owners in Illinois that live in public housing often have to choose between keeping their pet and staying in a place they can afford. A proposed Illinois measure aims to prevent that situation from ever happening.

State Senator Linda Holmes (D-Aurora) is sponsoring a bill requiring landlords in charge of affordable housing units to allow pets. At an event in Springfield announcing the measure, she explained everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits of having a pet in their home.

“They influence social, emotional, and cognitive development in children and they promote an active lifestyle,” Holmes said. “They provide emotional support, improved moods, and contribute to overall morale of their owners, including the elderly and disabled.”

Landlords and property owners who receive tax subsidies for low-income housing would be required to allow tenants to keep common pets, which include domesticated cats and dogs, regardless of size, weight, or breed.

Data provided by Holmes indicates 81 million American households share their homes with 173 million dogs and cats. Several polls have demonstrated that most Americans consider pets to be members of their families.

Housing owners typically raise concerns about costs associated with maintaining pet-friendly environments, but according to a study titled "Companion Animal Renters Study: The Market For Rental Housing for People and Pets," there is little to no difference between apartment damages caused by tenants with pets and by those without.

In 2018, 151,000 dogs and cats entered Illinois animal shelters and 17,000 were killed. The majority of those animals already had homes, but their owners had to give them away because their housing arrangement did not allow pets.

Shoshana Mostoller of the Belleville Area Humane Society said allowing pets in public housing could reduce the burden on already overcrowded animal shelters.

“We’re trying to find homes for homeless animals, and 38 percent of our requests are from animals that already have loving homes,” Mostoller said. “You watch the people bring in their pets, and they’re crying, and they’re upset.”

Holmes said her measure addresses both animals and owners.

“On the animals side, they have to be put in shelters where they may be adopted or destroyed, and there is an emotional toll on a family if they have to give up their beloved cat or dog,” she explained.

The measure allows property owners to continue to maintain rules for pets such as requiring registration, vaccination, and sterilization. Meanwhile, animal owners would still have to comply with noise and sanitation standards.

Dogs found to be vicious under Illinois law could still be excluded from public housing. If a pet causes an injury, the owner would be held responsible, not the housing provider.

Olivia Mitchell is a graduate Public Affairs Reporting intern for the spring 2020 legislative session.
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