DC Pets in Housing Bill To Be Announced

May 21, 2024

Washington (May 21, 2024)— DC is set to announce The Pets in Housing Act on May 22, 2024 at 3:30 pm on the steps of the Wilson Building. The bill is designed to provide accessible and affordable housing for individuals and family’s with companion animals and to outlaw breed discrimination by housing providers. The Animal Welfare Project at the George Washington University Law School supervised by Joan Schaffner worked with HRA and DC VRA on drafting and promoting this bill.

Joan E. Schaffner is an Associate Professor of Law, Faculty Co-Director of the Animal Legal Education Initiative at the George Washington University Law School. In addition, Schaffner is the leading advisor to the GW Animal Welfare Project and the GW Student Animal Legal Defense Fund. Schaffner’s scholarship focuses on animal protection law. Ze has presented on animal law panels an conferences world-wide. Schaffner’s most recent scholarship has focused on free-roaming cats with the recent publication in Society and Animals entitled : “Managing Our Relationship with Free-Roaming Cats in Zoopoland,” and the development of an international convention for animal protection with the recent article published in the Global Journal of Animal law, and co-authored with Raj Reddy, entitled “The Convention on Animal Protection: The Missing Link in a One Health Global Strategy for Pandemic Prevention.” Joan is the author of the book Introduction to Animals and the Law, co-author and editor of A Lawyer’s Guide to Dangerous Dog Issues and Litigating Animal Law Disputes: A Complete Guide for Lawyers, and author of several book chapters including “Valuing Nature in Environmental Law: Lessons for Animal Law and the Valuation of Animals” in What Can Animal Law Learn from Environmental Law?, “Animal Cruelty and the Law: Permitted Conduct” in Animal Cruelty: A Multidisciplinary Approach, “Value, wild animals and law” in Animal Welfare and International Environmental Law: From Conservation to Compassion.”

Schaffner said, “The GW Animal Welfare Project, with the help of local and national animal advocates, have worked for the past several months researching the housing barriers to DC residents with pets and have worked alongside Councilmember White’s staff to draft the Pets in Housing Act designed to keep families together and increase the opportunities for loving homes for DC’s homeless animals.  The Act provides greater accessibility and affordability to DC renters by eliminating non-refundable pet move-in fees and capping both pet rent and security deposits. The Act further promotes equity by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against pets based on breed, weight, and size, recognizing that such arbitrarily-determined exclusions are based on myths that a dog’s “dangerousness” is a function of their breed or their association with people of color. Finally, the Act provides for at least one pet-friendly shelter for DC’s unhoused community, eliminating the choice between a safe place to sleep and remaining with their pet.  I am excited for the opportunities this Act provides to eradicate discrimination and keep District families together in safe and affordable housing.”

The “Pets in Housing Amendment Act of 2024” is a bill made “To amended the Rental Housing Act of 1985 to limit the amount of fees that a housing provider may charge a prospective tenant associated with owning a pet; and to amend the XXX to ensure access to shelter for individuals with pets”.

The Pets in Housing Amendment Act promotes a more humane, equitable, and accessible approach to housing affordability for pet owners in the District of Columbia by: Increasing Affordability for Renters, Opening Doors for Pet Owners, and Eliminating Breed Discrimination. The bill caps on the refundable security deposit of no more than $300 associated with the residence of common household pets in the rental unit. The bill continues to update the terms of a “common household pet” as a domesticated animal such as a dog, cat, bird, rodent, fish, or turtle that is traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes.

About GW Animal Law and Animal Welfare Project (AWP) 
The GW Law Animal Welfare Project (AWP) was established in 2003 by Professor Mary Cheh and Joan Schaffner. It is an independent pro bono effort between faculty and students at The George Washington University Law School. AWP seeks to raise awareness of animal welfare issues and promote legislative changes to advance animal welfare and improve the lives of animals in the District of Columbia (DC) and beyond.

Student participate in the project by researching various aspects of animal protection, including existing and proposed laws and regulations around the nation, enforcement issues, and possibilities for legal reform—and by drafting responsive legislation or supporting documents for legislation. AWP is a resource for the DC government, local humane organizations, and community groups interested in strengthening the protection of animals.  It also works with other law schools, non-profit organizations, and the bar on joint animal law projects.