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San Diego Humane Society

Housing and Pets: Frequently Asked Questions

  • Rental housing advertised as "pet friendly" allows pets who have not been designated as emotional support or service animals. The vast majority of pet policies for these properties have restrictions in place regarding the number of pets permitted in each unit as well as the type, breed or size of pet. Most properties also charge an extra deposit and/or monthly pet rent. With that said, some properties that are not advertised as being pet-friendly will accept pets on a case-by-case basis.
  • While securing pet-friendly housing can be difficult, there are many actions you can take to boost your chances of finding a rental that will welcome your pets.
  • San Diego Humane Society maintains a list of pet-friendly properties throughout San Diego County. We also recommend utilizing rental sites such as Craigslist and Apartment List.

Additional Resources:

Information provided by Disability Rights California’s Fact Sheet: Rights to Assistance Animals in Housing

  • A "service animal" is a dog who is individually trained to perform work or tasks that benefit a person with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other type of disability. A service animal may be trained by a professional, a friend, a family member or the person with a disability.
  • An "emotional support animal" is any animal who eases the effects of a person’s disability by providing comfort or support. There are no specific training requirements for emotional support animals. 
  • State and federal fair housing laws* provide rights to both service animals and emotional support animals in housing as reasonable accommodations for a tenant’s or housing applicant’s disability. 
  • A reasonable accommodation is an exception to rules or policies that are necessary to allow people with disabilities to use and enjoy their housing. This includes a requirement that housing providers make exceptions to a "no pets" policy.
  • A request for a reasonable accommodation to have an emotional support animal in housing can be denied if the animal:
    • Is not necessary because of the guardian’s disability (see documentation requirement information at the end of this section).
    • Poses a direct threat** to other people or property. 
    • Is not under the guardian’s care (if the animal is out of control and the animal’s guardian does not take effective action to control the animal).
    • Is not housebroken.
    • Imposes an undue financial or administrative burden.
    • Fundamentally alters the nature of services that the landlord or homeowners association provides (ex: asking a landlord to feed, walk or clean up after an assistance animal).
  • Assistance animals are not subject to the same pet restrictions such as breed, size and number. They are also not required to be registered as service animals, or wear a special tag or vest identifying them as service animals. 
  • A housing provider may not require a tenant or applicant to pay a fee or a security deposit or to buy insurance for the animal as a condition of allowing the person to keep an assistance animal. A housing provider can charge a tenant for repairing any damages that the assistance animal causes to the unit or common areas. 
  • If you are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal in housing, a landlord or homeowners association may ask for documentation that you have a disability and that you have a disability-related need for the animal. The verification letter may be obtained from a clinician (physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, social worker, etc.) familiar with your disability and need for the assistance animal. The housing provider should not request documentation if your disability and your disability-related need for the service or support animal are apparent.

Additional Resources:

*Here is a list of the primary laws that cover disability rights in housing: NOTE: Disability rights in homeless shelters can be covered by several sets of both federal and state laws — depending on how the shelter is funded, and which aspect of the shelter is being used or how it is accessed (as a dayroom/resource center or as a form of housing). **A direct threat must be determined by an individual assessment of the animal’s behavior, not stereotypes about the breed.
 
  • Pets are often surrendered to a shelter because a pet’s guardian is unaware of other options or resources:
    • Rehoming provides guardians the opportunity to connect with community members looking to adopt and determine a good match for their pet. Platforms such as Get Your PetRehome by Adopt-a-Pet and the Rehoming Pets in San Diego Facebook Group allow guardians to create a pet profile for potential adopters to see. Additional rehoming tips and resources can be found here.
    • San Diego Humane Society offers a variety of programs to support pet guardians facing financial hardship, including a pet food pantryfunding for veterinary care and a behavior and training helpline. Call 619-299-7012 for additional support. 
    • If your primary concern is a no pets policy, you may want to explore requesting a reasonable accommodation for your pet. According to the CDC, one in four Americans lives with a disability. See the assistance animals section above to determine if your pet meets the criteria for an emotional support or service animal.
  • If you have exhausted all other options, we ask that you please make a pre-Admission phone appointment,so we may provide you with safe instructions for relinquishment.
  • Make sure your pet’s identification is up to date. If your contact information changes frequently, we recommend providing that of a friend or family member who will be able to get in touch with you if needed.
    • Collar with a name tag.
    • A microchip acts as permanent identification for your pet and will help reunite you with them if they get lost or end up at a shelter. If your contact information is out of date and you are not sure of the microchip number, you may request a no-cost scan at any animal shelter as well as most veterinarians.
    • A license tag (dogs only) provides a quick and accurate way of notifying you if someone else finds your pet.
  • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and that the person watching your pet has the vaccination records. We also recommend having your pet spayed/neutered to prevent unplanned litters. 
  • Provide the temporary guardian with a "bio" for your pet. Include your pet’s likes and dislikes regarding food, exercise and social situations with people and other animals. Also be sure to note any medications your pet is taking as well as any allergies you are aware of. 
  • Provide the temporary guardian with a letter granting them permission to reclaim your pet in the event that your pet is taken to a shelter. 
  • We strongly encourage having a written agreement including emergency contact information, how long you anticipate support will be needed and who will be responsible for expenses such as food, grooming and veterinary care.
  • Encourage the temporary guardian to keep your pet inside or in a crate when left unsupervised. Pets are more likely to try to escape when they are in a new environment.
  • Maintain frequent contact with the temporary guardian. This will give you a chance to find out how your pet is doing, help keep everyone on the same page and lower the risk of your pet ending up in a shelter due to lack of communication.
     
  • Reach out to family, friends or neighbors in case they are able to keep your pet in the interim. San Diego Humane Society can assist with care supplies such as pet food and bedding. Call 619-299-7012 for support or visit our comprehensive list of community resources.
  • Contact boarding facilities about temporary placement. Most boarding facilities require that pets are up to date on vaccinations and spayed/neutered.
  • If you have exhausted all available resources, call San Diego Humane Society’s Resource Center to discuss what options might be available for you: 619-299-7012.

Additional Resources:

  • Dogs on Deployment: Offers an online network for service members to search for volunteers who are willing to board their pets during their guardian’s service commitment.
  • Rancho Coastal Humane Society: Animal Safehouse Program (ASP) offers temporary sheltering for victims of domestic violence, veterans and seniors requiring hospitalization.
  • RedRover Relief Grants: Provide grants for emergency boarding for pet guardians hospitalized due to COVID-19 or escaping from a domestic violence situation. 
  • Make sure your pet’s identification is up to date. If your contact information changes frequently, we recommend providing that of a friend or family member who will be able to get in touch with you if needed.
    • Collar with a name tag.
    • A microchip acts as permanent identification for your pet and will help reunite you with them if they get lost or end up at a shelter. If your contact information is out of date and you are not sure of the microchip number, you may request a no-cost scan at any animal shelter as well as most veterinarians.
    • A license tag (dogs only) provides a quick and accurate way of notifying you if someone else finds your pet.
  • Keep your pet up to date on vaccinations and make sure your pet is spayed/neutered to prevent unplanned litters. 
  • During the warm months, keep activity to a minimum in the heat of the day to avoid putting your pet at risk of heat stroke or injuring their paws. If the ground is too hot for you to place the palm of your hand down for 7 seconds, it is too hot for your pet to walk on.
  • Even when left in the shade with the windows down, cars heat up quickly and can have deadly consequences for your pet. A good rule of thumb is to avoid leaving your pet unattended in the car for more than 30 minutes if the outside temperature is above 65 degrees. If a pet appears to be in distress, the local animal control agency may remove the pet from the vehicle and the pet’s guardian may face punitive actions.
  • San Diego Humane Society can assist with care supplies such as pet food and bedding. Call 619-299-7012 for support or visit our comprehensive list of community resources.

Additional Resources:

  • 211: Free, 24-hour confidential phone service and searchable online database.
  • Behavior Helpline: San Diego Humane Society offers free support with behavior and training-related questions. 
  • Father Joe’s Villages: Offers pet-friendly housing and case management services for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. 
  • Safe Parking Program: Jewish Family Service operates two safe parking lots for unsheltered San Diegans living out of their vehicles.
  • San Diego (Neil Good) Day Center: Offers case management services including housing resources, employment and education services. Also restrooms, laundry, storage, showers, mail, phones and a computer lab. 
  • CA COVID-19 Eviction Moratorium: Currently no tenant in California can be evicted before June 30, 2021 as result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship. The tenant must provide a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines.  
  • If you are facing financial hardship and not able to pay your full rent, be proactive in communicating with your landlord about your situation. Most landlords would rather receive partial payment than go through the process of evicting a tenant. 
  • It is illegal for your landlord to evict you for nonpayment of rent without going through formal eviction proceedings, including first giving you written notice to either move out or give you a chance to fix the problem. If you have been served notice, contact Legal Aid Society of San Diego for free legal support and guidance. 
  • San Diego Humane Society may be able to assist with temporary boarding for your pets if you are facing eviction or being evicted. Boarding fees may be reduced or waived in cases of financial hardship. Contact 619-299-7012 for support. 

Additional Resources:

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