Moving and Housing Issues

Pet owners who turn in their animals at shelters cite “moving” as one of the most frequent reasons for surrendering their pets. Even in the best of times, moving has a significant impact on pets’ ability to stay with their families. But, the pandemic has impacted people in ways never seen before. The US Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey indicates that between 50,000 and 350,000 residents of the Houston area are at risk of foreclosure or eviction in the coming months. This could significantly increase the number of pets and families needing help.

Pets are members of the family. They have an amazing ability to comfort us when times are difficult, so the desire to keep them with us as we transition is natural. There is information available that can help you find assistance as you search for a new residence. 

If you are facing eviction or are struggling to pay your bills, you can contact Greater Houston United Way 211 Helpline 24 hours a day by dialing 211 on your phone, searching for help online, or emailing the Helpline at Helpline.help@unitedwayhouston.org. They have information on basic needs, legal services, income security, health care, mental health care and counseling, senior services and more.

Additional Resources

Several home and apartment listing websites offer the ability to search based on important amenities or features, such as acceptance of pets.

Friends for Life and My Pit Bull is Family are two  nonprofits dedicated to keeping pets and families together. Each maintain lists of pet-friendly housing with Greater Houston listings.  

Additional Resources

  • PeopleWithPets specializes in listings of pet-friendly apartments, hotels, businesses and products
  • Zillow (use the “More” button to search by options for small dogs, large dogs, and cats)
  • Apartments.com (use the “More” button, find “Amenities” and search for “Dog Friendly” or “Cat Friendly” options)
  • ApartmentGuide (use the “More” button to find “Pet Friendly” options)
  • HAR.com (use “More Filters” to find “Pet Policy” with “Dog Allowed” and “Cat Allowed” homes and apartments
  • PadMapper (use the “More Filters” button to find options for “Pets”)
  • Rent.com (includes a “Pet Owner” section to search for housing and find hacks to help your pet adjust)
  • Trulia (use the “Pet” button to find “Dog Allowed” and “Cat Allowed” options)
  • Zumper (use the “All Filters” button to search for “Allows Dogs” and “Allows Cats”

It doesn’t hurt to ask the property manager or landlord if they will negotiate this price with you or allow you to make payments. If they decline your request, there may still be options. Consider explaining the situation to family or friends to see if they will give or lend the money.

Because many people have a heart for animals, so can also consider asking for help on social media. If possible, have the payments made directly to the landlord. This should give donors peace of mind the money is being used for the stated purpose, which could make them more likely to give.

Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and is spayed or neutered. If you know your lease is ending, begin looking as soon as possible to give yourself more options. You can also create a “pet resume” to help property managers or landlords get to know your pet, and feel more comfortable with him or her moving in (sample pet resume). Be sure to mention any behavior training that your pet has completed.

If possible, consider having your current landlord write a letter of recommendation saying that your pet was well behaved and did not cause disturbances or destruction in your home. All of these steps help to show you are a responsible pet owner and that you and your dog or cat would make a great addition to the neighborhood.

For tips on helping your pet get adjusted to a new home, see our “Acclimating Your Pet to a New Home” video. (Also available with Spanish or Vietnamese subtitles by pressing the “cc” button on the lower right of the video image.)

It is best to sit down and have a detailed conversation about how the host family will care for your pets so that you and the hosts feel comfortable and are in agreement. You should put in writing how long the family will care for your pets, who is responsible for the cost of food and veterinary care, what routine healthcare will be provided, what will happen if the family can no longer care for the pets, and what happens if you are unable to reclaim your pets after the agreed upon time frame. Having this information spelled out will protect you and your pets from any misunderstandings. Be sure to provide the family with medical records and any behavior information that may be helpful.

When moving to a new environment, it is best to keep the pet indoors rather than leave them outdoors unsupervised where they can escape and get lost in an unfamiliar place. Be sure your pets’ microchip information is up-to-date with your information or, if you will be out of touch, with a contact person you trust. Provide your pet with a collar and ID with a contact phone number. You may also want to ask the family to keep a couple of photos of your pets on their phone just in case they get lost.

If possible, be sure to stay in touch with the family on a regular basis to make sure your pets are doing well.

The period just after you move can be a risky time if your pet gets out and hasn’t learned the new surroundings well enough to find their way back home. Make sure your pet is microchipped and that you have updated your owner information with the chip company. Also, provide your pet a collar that has an ID tag with your phone number so you can be reached if your pet is found.

To help them settle in, try to keep as many familiar routines as possible. Create a space for them using familiar bedding and toys. Be patient and understand that the move may make them anxious which could lead to some changes in behavior and/or bathroom accidents. Help them become familiar with your new space by letting them take time to sniff around and “smell” who else lives in the neighborhood. With love and understanding, any issues should resolve as your pet becomes more comfortable.

For tips on helping your pet get adjusted to a new home, see our “Acclimating Your Pet to a New Home” video. (Also available with Spanish or Vietnamese subtitles by pressing the “cc” button on the lower right of the video image.)

According to the Fair Housing Act, Emotional Support Animals (ESA) have the right to live with you, even if your rental unit does not allow pets. Become familiar with your rights to have an ESA and work with your landlord to follow the steps to ensure that you are given this opportunity.

Even if your dog is used to having a backyard, what most pets want more than anything else – is you! There are plenty of options for you and your dog to get out some energy together by going for walks, visiting a dog park or having playtime in your home. Some pet-friendly apartments even offer off-leash areas where pets can interact. There are many exercise, playing and training options to keep your dog happy by your side, regardless of whether you have a yard.

Additional Resources

Domestic Violence Programs

If you are leaving a violent home situation in search of safety, you may not have to leave your pet behind. There are several local and national programs available to help ensure the safety of your pet.

  • Houston PetSet Pet Protect Program provides Houston residents the ability to take their pets to safety 24/7 and receive free boarding for cats or dogs for 30 days. A shelter representative must make the request on behalf of the client.
  • Houston SPCA PetSafe Program provides emergency boarding of pets for families living in family violence shelters. 
  • Red Rover Safe Escape Grants may support the cost of boarding while a client is staying at a domestic violence shelter. A shelter representative must make the request on behalf of the client.
  • Red Rover Safe Place for Pets offers a searchable database of on-site and off-site housing for people who need a safe escape from domestic violence.
  • Transitional Pet Fostering is a local Facebook group that provides a way for local residents experiencing a short term emergency (such as fleeing domestic violence, experiencing temporary homelessness or going into a short hospital stay) to look for a temporary foster. It is recommended that owners carefully screen fosters and get a foster agreement in writing before the pet moves.

Military

The brave members of our military already sacrifice so much for our freedom. There are many programs available to assist them in keeping their beloved pets while serving our country.

  • Dogs on Deployment is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit which provides an online network for service members to search for volunteers who are willing to bard their pets during their owner’s service commitments.
  • FACE Foundation provides financial support to people experiencing homelessness, low-income families, senior citizens, veterans, military families, students, disabled individuals and hard-working families who have exhausted all other options and are at risk for losing their beloved pets.
  • Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pets offers its Foster Home program for military members on out-of-country deployments or honorably discharged veterans facing an unforeseen situation related to a significant inpatient medical situation and/or who is homeless receiving a “hand up” from a VA or VA-approve Homeless Veteran Transition program.
  • Military One Source offers information, online tools and personalized support to help military members prepare to move with family and pets.
  • PACT for Animals offers its Military Foster Program for military pet owners away on trainings, deployments and reassignments.
  • SPCA International – Operation Baghdad Pups assists military members in bringing home pets they have befriended while overseas on deployment.

Homelessness

Many individuals experiencing homelessness have companion animals, whether they have had them for a long period or have found or adopted them since becoming housing insecure. There are several programs to help these owners provide care for their pets.

  • Laurel’s House may provide free veterinary care to pets and wildlife in need in the Greater Houston community when residents do not have funds to provide care.
  • FACE Foundation provides financial support to people experiencing homelessness, low-income families, senior citizens, veterans, military families, students, disabled individuals and hard-working families who have exhausted all other options and are at risk for losing their beloved pets.
  • Pets of the Homeless offers pet food and emergency veterinary care for pet families experiencing homelessness.
  • Transitional Pet Fostering is a local Facebook group that provides a way for local residents experiencing a short term emergency (such as experiencing temporary homelessness, fleeing domestic violence or going into a short hospital stay) to look for a temporary foster. It is recommended that owners carefully screen fosters and get a foster agreement in writing before the pet moves.