COVID Rental Assistance Programs are running out of money, and families are running out of options for their pets.

Girl with red hair holding wirey terrier in a red harness on her lap
Photo by Susan Matthiessen on Unsplash

Texas, and Houston in particular, was once considered a model for the emergency rental relief program from the Department of Treasury. Now that the state’s allocation of funds has run out, the program has shut down. That means families, including their pets, are facing eviction in unprecedented numbers.

The animal sheltering world saw the crisis coming, and has been compiling information and resources to help the community. “No one should be faced with the decision of having to give up a family member while in a housing emergency. With shelters and communities working together, we can help families facing this devastating eviction crisis,” said Kristen Hassen, director for American Pets Alive! and a national expert on community-based animal sheltering. 

In addition to evictions, the country saw an alarming rise in domestic violence incidents. Families forced to stay at home during quarantine could not escape their abusers. More than ever, Houston PetSet’s Pet Protect program that boards the pets of survivors fleeing domestic violence has been a lifeline for so many. As people continue to lose their homes for whatever reason, pets continue to pay the price.

So what can pet owners do? Seek out free and discounted resources to help lower costs of care. If there are friends or neighbors who love animals and have the space, owners can combine households and share the responsibility of housing and caring for the pets.

There are even groups who offer short-term foster care or emergency sheltering for families who are evicted. There are options to consider before deciding to give a beloved pet over to an animal shelter or a rescue.

Most importantly, the community needs to recognize that pets are usually better off staying with the family that loves them. If that means offering special accommodations to keep families together, it’s worth the extra effort.

Lisa Tynan