Hope on the Horizon: The PUPP Act Could Keep People and Pets Together
For many years, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of access to pet-friendly housing has been cited as a top reason why pets are surrendered by their owners. All kinds of personal hardships, including loss of employment, emergencies and illness can force devoted families to relinquish their beloved pets to local shelters or rescue groups—but they should not have to. These factors alone are not reliable indicators of a person’s ability to love and care for a companion animal, and it benefits the pet and pet owner to stay together.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, homelessness has been on the rise since 2017. In many cases, people will refuse assistance and shelter if it comes with the condition of giving up a beloved pet. This scenario harms individuals’ wellbeing and mental health and contributes to the cycle of chronic homelessness.
To help people experiencing homelessness, federal lawmakers introduced a bill in Congress that would increase access to co-sheltering and services for people with pets.
The Providing for Unhoused People with Pets (PUPP) Act would provide homeless shelters with grants to help them support residents with pets. This bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to award emergency shelters with grants that enable them to accommodate unhoused individuals with pets. The PUPP Act’s grants can be used to construct new properties, renovate properties to make space for clients who have pets, or cover the costs of critical pet care supplies. Grants would also fund pet-related operating costs, like basic veterinary and behavioral services.
“Pets are vital sources of love and comfort to their owners—especially during stressful times—and neither that bond nor the safety of those animals should ever be threatened by a lack of pet-friendly homeless shelters," said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President and CEO. “The PUPP Act will ensure no one will have to choose between keeping their pets and securing housing for themselves.”
There are a number of ways that the PUPP Act can become law. Congress can pass the bill on its own, or they have the power to incorporate it into the upcoming Farm Bill, a massive piece of legislation that dictates how funding is allocated across a wide range of federal programs. PUPP Act co-leads Representatives Jason Crow (D-CO), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Nancy Mace (R-SC) took action on Friday, November 3, by sending a letter [PDF] to the House Agriculture Committee, urging them to include the PUPP Act in the upcoming Farm Bill. Passing the PUPP Act through either route would be a huge victory for people experiencing homelessness and their animals.
The ASPCA is leading a coalition of animal welfare organizations, human service agencies and other advocacy groups that are working hard to advance the PUPP Act and increase access to pet-friendly housing. On Thursday, November 2, the coalition sent a letter [PDF] to members of the U.S. House and Senate Agriculture Committees, showing solidarity and urging their support for this critical bill.