STUART, Fla. — It’s not just people, but pets that are getting ‘priced out of paradise.’
The growing costs and limited housing inventory are forcing some families to make the toughest decision any pet owner can make- having to surrender a pet to meet housing restrictions.
But there is hope that a state bill making progress will change that.
HB 721 aims to ban public housing authorities from restricting dogs by breed, and instead, only allow them to restrict dogs by behavior. The law would require any rules applying to dogs to be applied uniformly. It could help owners of so-called ‘dangerous breeds’ more power to keep their pets.
The law wouldn’t apply to private HOAs or condominiums.
“It says the government can’t be telling people what kind of dog they can own,” said Kelsey Gilmore-Futeral, Legislative Attorney for Best Friends Animal Society.
She said housing changes and struggles are the number one reason in Florida and nationwide that people surrender pets to shelters.
The bill, she said, could also help prevent overcrowding and shelters and reduce euthanasia rates.
Additionally, the bill would eliminate Miami’s ban on pit bulls.
In Florida, local governments are already prohibited by law from forming restrictions based on a dog’s breed, except for Miami which was grandfathered in. The law would eliminate that grandfather clause.
“So no matter which community you move to in Florida, you’re going to be able to take your dog and the city or county is not going to be able to tell you no,” Gilmore-Futeral said.
Angelique Grippi is among the dog owners who have had to surrender a pet because of the housing crisis.
She dropped off Sissy at the Humane Society in November under a program where the shelter temporarily holds someone’s dog while they’re in housing limbo.
“I’m starting to tear up just thinking about it because she is my shadow. … I just think about her wondering where we are,” Grippi said.
Her current housing situation will not allow her to have Sissy, but she’s looking for an option that will so she can go get Sissy back.
“To have my dog, to have my family together would mean everything,” Grippi said.
April Young is a case manager for Family Promise of Martin County, helping people find affordable housing.
“Now, people are starting to see that they can’t live here at a point where I’m moving people out of state,” Young said.
She said already up to 8 of her clients have surrendered pets.
“You have to think about the children. That’s their emotional support. I mean, these are your family members and a lot of our families have been through trauma,” she said.
They are all supporting the bill that helps families stick together.
The bill and its Senate counterpart have received unanimous approval through committees in the house and senate. It will go through two more committees in the next two weeks before it could be heard on the floor.