Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

In the face of a national housing crisis, pet owners are often forced to make heartbreaking decisions. Such was the case for the owners of Presley, a two-year-old Border Terrier mix, who found themselves grappling with eviction and a subsequent inability to care for their pets. Rather than abandoning their furry family member, they made the responsible choice to surrender Presley to Lovebugs Rescue. This decision spared Presley the fate of many pets left to fend for themselves—an all too common scenario as eviction rates rise across the country.

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

Presley’s Journey After Being Abandoned

2-year-old Presley was surrendered by his owners along with two other male dogs. His humans were in the midst of some of the most stressful events life can throw at you: divorce and eviction. With so much stress and uncertainty in their lives, Presley’s humans didn’t feel like they could take care of their pets any longer. 

Thankfully, Presley’s humans made a responsible decision, and surrendered their pets to a shelter rather than abandoning or dumping them. 

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

When Presley arrived at Lovebugs Rescue, he was quite shy. Obviously, being surrendered by his humans had affected him, but as he started to warm up he began showing a sweet, loving side. Still a little nervous with new people and not the most physically affectionate dog, Presley is a gentle, calm boy who would be content to spend his life following his humans around, but not necessarily being their lap dog. 

It’s possible that Presley will eventually come out of his shell even more. Many dogs who are abandoned by their humans or spend time in chaotic or stressful environments—as a household going through divorce and eviction can be—are a little more reserved or slow to trust. It’s hard to know just how much impact this experience had on Presley since we didn’t know him before, but it’s safe to say his former owners saved him a lot of trauma by safely and ethically surrendering him rather than dumping or abandoning him. 

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

The Rising Epidemic of Abandoned Dogs Following Evictions

Believe it or not, upwards of 25% of unhoused people are pet owners, and in some cases, their dogs are part of the reason they can’t find housing. 

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Since the moratorium on evictions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was lifted, rates of household evictions have steadily risen. Around 2.7 million households face evictions annually, and many of these families and individuals are dog owners. So many dog owners have lost their housing and ability to care for their dogs that animal shelters are overwhelmed and overpopulated with surrendered pets.  

Unfortunately, pet ownership has become a barrier to housing security, severely restricting the rental options available to anyone who owns a dog. Many short-term housing options don’t allow pets, which can force folks struggling with housing insecurity to face homelessness or surrender their pets. 

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

In the worst case scenario for the dogs, families facing eviction will abandon their pets on the property, or dump them elsewhere. If the dogs are found before it’s too late, these dogs still can face days of hunger, unsanitary conditions, subpar temperatures, and loneliness. The long-term effects of being abandoned or dumped can be devastating for these dogs, and can make them less adoptable in the event they are found by rescuers. 

Emily Klehm, CEO of the South Suburban Humane Society in Chicago Heights, Illinois illustrates just how dire conditions in shelters have gotten since the eviction moratorium was lifted in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. According to Klehm, shelter populations are up as much as 30% since 2019, but adoption rates are down by 30%, creating a serious discrepancy. 

People are simply experiencing too much housing insecurity to manage caring for their pets, too. 

What To Do If You Get Evicted with Your Dog

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

If you or someone you know is facing eviction, you have options. You don’t have to choose between losing your housing or losing your dog, and there are resources available to help you while you get back on your feet. 

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1. Learn Your Legal Rights as a Pet Owner

Some households face eviction after their landlords discover pets on the property that have not been approved. Even in pet-free buildings or in cases where you have signed a lease acknowledging that you cannot have pets on the property, you may still have legal rights to continue your lease and keep your pets. Familiarize yourself with your local state and municipal renters rights, and understand just how much power your landlord has over your decision to own a pet. 

If you qualify, you may also be able to register your dog as an emotional support or assistance animal. Some mental health diagnoses may qualify you for the right to live anywhere with your dog, as long as you get physician approval. Landlords cannot refuse your right to have an emotional support animal, even if you live in a pet-free building. 

2. Visit Pet Food Pantries

For families facing eviction and housing insecurity, money is almost always tight. Dog food can be expensive, and for some individuals, the choice to surrender their pets may come down to whether or not they can afford to feed them. 

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

If you are struggling to afford feeding your dog, search for a pet food bank in your area. Pet food pantries offer free pet food and other resources for pet owners in need. Check out this directory of nationwide pet food pantries or search “pet food pantry near me” to find resources in your area. 

3. Utilize Mobile Vet Clinics

Like food, veterinary care is a major expense for dog owners, and is an oft-cited factor in the decision to surrender pets. Mobile veterinary clinics are basically vet offices on wheels funded by non-profits and animal health advocates that visit under-served areas and pet owners who cannot afford traditional vet visits. 

Often mobile veterinary services are free, and some organizations will run special events for spay and neuter, vaccinations, checkups, and other standard procedures. Some mobile vets may even offer more extensive procedures, medication and free refills, and supplies for pet owners with medically complex pets. 

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4. Consider Temporary Foster Care

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

Even if you can’t care for your dog at this very moment doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. Temporary foster care programs offer assistance to pet owners in need, including short-term housing for your pets while you secure housing for yourself. Temporary housing and foster programs exist nationwide, and the best way to find a suitable program is to Google what is available in your area. 

5. Search for Grants

Although the process can be slow and a little frustrating, dog owners that are facing eviction or housing insecurity may be eligible for charitable grants. Designed to provide resources, financial assistance, and support to pet owners in need, programs like the Banfield Foundation donate millions to support animals and the people that love them. 

6. Surrender, Never Abandon

Innocent Pup Pays the Price When Owners Lose Their Home

In some situations, there is no other choice but to give up your pet. Heartbreaking and extraordinarily difficult, finding yourself in this position can make you feel shame, fear, and embarrassment, but it’s very important to remember that animal shelter staff will be understanding if you choose to surrender your pet

Surrendering an animal is never easy, but it can be for their own good, and animal shelter staff is trained to help you through the difficult and painful process. If you cannot care for your dog, please surrender them to a local shelter—you never have to choose to abandon or dump your pet, there will always be someone to help. 

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