PUPP Act Aims to Provide Support to Pet Owners Facing Homelessness

February 21, 2024

From 2016 to 2023, Gertrude C. had been living in a Queens Village (New York City) basement apartment with her two beloved cats, Gabriella and Abigail. In January 2023, after six-and-a-half years of residence, Gertrude’s landlord informed her she would have to vacate because renting out the space was deemed illegal.

The landlord agreed to keep Gertrude’s cats in the basement until she could find housing that accepted pets.


At first, Gertrude found a hotel room to live in for one week. Then, on April 1, she moved to a homeless shelter as her former landlord continued to care for her cats.

Out of Options

“I can’t pay more than $1,000 a month in rent, and any place I found cost too much money,” says Gertrude, 66.

In June, Gertrude’s former landlord told her he had to get her cats out of his building.

Out of options, Getrude reached out to the ASPCA, which she was familiar with having utilized ASPCA mobile clinics for her previous cats, Angel and Princess.

Getrude picked up Gabriella and Abigail at her former home and took a taxi to the ASPCA’s 92nd Street location.

Abigail, left, and Gabriella.

A New Home

The ASPCA Community Engagement (CE) team agreed to board Gabriella and Abigail temporarily while Gertrude worked on a more permanent solution.

Meanwhile, the CE team liaised with the City Department of Homeless Services and Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and Gertrude’s case manager and doctor, to obtain an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter for future landlords and apartment managers—proof that Gertrude has a valid health reason for needing to live with her cats, whom she considers emotional support animals.

“Gertrude came to visit Abigail and Gabriella several times while they were in our care, and not only was it clear how important they were to her, but you could see what she meant to them,” says Delia Kurland, Senior Director of Operations of the ASPCA Adoption Center and Kitten Nursery. “The quality of all of their lives is better when they are together.”


Once Gertrude’s ESA letter was made available, the ASPCA obtained approval for Gertrude’s cats to move with her to a new shelter. On September 20, Gertrude and her cats moved to Rockaway Park, Queens.


“It’s a small room for the three of us,” Gertrude says. “But I’m so happy to have them with me now.”

New Bill Aims to Help People and Pets Stay Together

The ASPCA works hard to remove barriers to keeping families intact, and one of the largest barriers is housing. Most of us consider our pets to be part of the family, but sadly these bonds are being strained by restrictive policies that make it particularly challenging for families, especially lower-income households, renters, and those experiencing homelessness to secure housing that accommodates their four-legged family members.

Lawmakers in Congress are considering a bill aimed at keeping animals and their pet parents together when seeking shelter due to an emergency or homelessness.

Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) says a car ride with his 10-year-old daughter in his Aurora district inspired the Providing for Unhoused People with Pets Act (PUPP Act), which would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to award emergency shelters with grants that enable them to accommodate unhoused individuals who have pets.


On their outing, Crow and his daughter noticed that many unhoused folks in his community had pets.

“That was very heartbreaking,” said Crow, adding that research revealed a “huge gap” in resources.

“Pets play a pivotal role in the lives of their human caregivers, regardless of their income level or housing situation. Unfortunately, there's a severe lack of pet-friendly housing," says Ingrid Seggerman, who works in Federal Affairs at the ASPCA, one of the national organizations advocating for the legislation. “When faced with the impossible choice of finding shelter for themselves or remaining on the street with their animal, unhoused pet owners will often refuse assistance if that shelter won't allow their animal in.”

A 2015 study found as many as 25% of people experiencing homelessness own pets. Among all American households, 2023 statistics put pet ownership at 66%.


Advocates for the PUPP Act say that an emergency, natural disaster or sudden economic issue could require someone to seek shelter immediately, only to receiving the alarming news that they can’t bring pets with them.

If passed, 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.

This bipartisan bill, introduced by Congressman Crow and Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Nancy Mace (R-SC), has received strong support from an ASPCA-led coalition of more than 100 animal welfare organizations, human service agencies and other advocacy groups who are urging Congress to include the PUPP Act in the Farm Bill, a twice-per-decade package of legislation governing U.S. agriculture and food policy.

“My Cats Are My Everything”

Gertrude emigrated to New York City from Haiti in February 1981, when she was 23. She last visited Haiti in 1992 after her grandmother died.

Over the years, Gertrude has worked as a patient care associate in hospitals and as a taxi driver. She stopped working during COVID, in 2020.

“I was afraid to get sick because I have no one to help me,” she says.

Gertrude and Abigail at the ASPCA with, from left, Matt Goldweber, Senior Program Manager, Community Engagement, Delia Kurland, Senior Director of the ASPCA Adoption Center and Kitten Nursery, and Brittney Umana, Licensed Veterinary Technician Manager at the Adoption Center.

Gertrude receives retirement benefits from her union and pays no rent for her current housing. But since she has no kitchen, she eats out or buys prepared food every day. She also pays for a storage unit where she keeps most of her possessions, including her many books.

“Things are very difficult right now,” Gertrude says. “But my cats are very important to me. They are part of my life, my kids, my everything. No matter how hard life is, my cats make me very happy.”

The Farm Bill is a top priority for Congress this year, and we need your help ensuring the PUPP Act is included in this bill so more pet owners like Gertrude can keep their pets. Learn more about the PUPP Act and how you can support it!