Wednesday, August 4, 2021

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Update 8/27/21:  the Supreme Court issued an opinion yesterday ending the CDC order which extended the eviction moratorium in areas of substantial and high transmission of COVID-19 until October 3, 2021. The Humane Society family of organizations remains concerned about what this could mean for millions of Americans and their pets and will continue to urge elected officials to pass immediate measures to keep protections in place for these households.

On July 31, millions of Americans and their pets suddenly faced the terrifying possibility of losing their homes, as the federal eviction moratorium expired. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction moratorium began in September 2020 after studies found that COVID-19 cases increased when tenants were evicted and forced to move in with other families or into crowded shelters. But COVID-19 cases are on the rise across the U.S., as the Delta variant rapidly spreads, and the moratorium is essential to help ensure that renters and their companion animals have a roof over their heads.

On August 3, there were indications that the Biden Administration is working on an action to extend the eviction ban, and in the evening, the CDC issued an eviction moratorium in areas of substantial and high transmission of COVID-19. This order will expire on October 3, 2021.

We believe that further action to extend the eviction moratorium can’t come soon enough. Roughly 72% of renters have companion animals, which means that in the next two months upwards of 2.5 million dogs, cats and other companion animals may also be at risk of losing their families during evictions. Because of preventable evictions, millions of animals are at risk of potentially being heartbreakingly relinquished to shelters, many of which are already overburdened. Some families, faced with the impossible choice of their home or their pet, become homeless and live on couches or in their cars rather than giving up the pets they love.

How to help impacted families with companion animals

The lives of people and animals are inextricably intertwined, and this is especially true during times of crisis. Despite federal and state moratoria, evictions have been filed continuously, impacting people, pets and our already under-resourced animal shelters. Approximately 3.6 million families reported being unable to pay rent and possibly facing eviction within the next two months and more than 15 million families owe an estimated $20 million in back rent across the country. At the same time, as of July 31, only roughly $3 billion of the almost $47 billion in federal housing aid allocated as part of the U.S. Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program has reached tenants and landlords needing assistance—leaving millions of tenants without any ability to pay back rent. Families of color are more likely to face eviction in the coming months.

We recognize the need to protect the bond between people and their pets, especially during times of crisis. That’s why we advocate for stronger protections for companion animals and people at local, state and federal levels, and it’s also why the HSUS and a coalition of organizations collaborated to create the Eviction Response Toolkit. This resource offers animal shelters, municipalities and advocates creative strategies in helping keep families and their pets together, which any animal person knows is especially valuable during times of uncertainty, as it’s so often our pets who offer us stability and companionship.

In addition to the toolkit, the HSUS has supported impacted families and pets by supplying pet food and resources through our Pets for Life and Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) programs, bringing vital veterinary services to communities without robust pet wellness services, and advocating for affordable, pet-inclusive housing.

Now as housing insecurity undoubtedly rises and more people are displaced, pet-owning renters will have even fewer options, and will face even more challenges to keep their families together. So, what can we do to help alleviate unnecessary pet relinquishment and support stable, affordable pet-inclusive housing?

  • Encourage federal lawmakers to pass legislation that would extend the eviction moratorium until all of the federal aid has been distributed and COVID-19 Delta cases are under control.
  • Encourage state and local lawmakers to pass their own emergency eviction moratoriums and to prioritize spending federal aid to assist families in need.
  • Encourage shelters and rescues to provide for emergency fostering placement for people experiencing evictions and housing insecurity.
  • Support laws advocating for pet-inclusive subsidized housing.
  • Write to your local news outlet and highlight the impact of these important policies and their effect on the people and animals in your community.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the animal welfare community has worked tirelessly to ensure that families and their pets have access to the resources needed to remain together. Whether through advocating for tenant protections and eviction moratoria or providing food, veterinary care and other supplies, our movement has taken a strong stance on the absolute necessity of protecting family bonds with their pets—regardless of income, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

Now, on the cusp of a massive wave of preventable evictions, and the enormous associated costs to both human and animal health and wellbeing, we encourage lawmakers to further extend the eviction moratorium until stronger tenant protections are in place.

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.