Pet Ownership for the Elderly and Disabled in Public Housing

Authored By: Georgia Legal Services Program® LSC Funded


Pet Ownership in Public Housing for
the Elderly or People with Disabilities

Susan Reif
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: December 2003

This document will discuss the rules that apply to residents who live in public housing designated for use by the elderly or those with disabilities. A different set of rules apply to residents of general public housing project. These rules do not apply, if you are a person with a disability and your pet assist you in an identifiable way: performing tasks for you such as bringing items to you, alerting you to intrusions or sounds, pulling a wheel chair, guiding you as you walk, or even by providing you with emotional support.

Each Housing Authority Must Adopt Rules Which:

1. Require that all pets be given the shots or inoculation required by law;

2. Govern the sanitary disposal of pet waste by designating exclusive areas for pet exercise and the deposit of waste, requiring owners to remove and dispose of pet waste or requiring owners to take pets off the premises to deposit waste. If the pet uses a litterbox, the rules may state how waste and litter are to be disposed of but can not require that the litterbox be changed more than twice a week.

3. Require that all cats and dogs be appropriately restrained and kept under control while in the common areas;

4. Require owners to register their pet with the Housing Authority and provide a.) proof of inoculations, b.) a description of the pet, c.) The name, address a phone number of person to assume responsibility for the pet if the owner is enable to care for the pet, and d.) owners acknowledgment of pet rules and agreement to comply with them.

The Housing Authority May Adopt Rules Which:

1. Define what is a common household pet;

2. Limit the number of pets allowed in each dwelling unity;

3. Place reasonable limits on the size, weight and type of pets allowed;

4. Require owners of dogs or cats to pay a refundable pet deposit. The maximum pet deposit for residents of public housing must not exceed the higher of the Total Tenant payment or an amount fixed by the Housing Authority. The pet rules may permit the deposit to be paid over time;

5. Impose a waste removal charge of up to $5 for each time the HA is required to remove deposited pet waste;

6. Protect the unit, common areas or to protect the health and safety of tenants, employees and the public;

7. Require pet owners to license their pets;

8. Require the pet owner to control noise;

9. Require pets to be spayed or neutered, and

10. Limit the time a pet can remain unattended.

The Housing Authority May Not Require That Pet Owners':

1. Obtain insurance coverage for any damage that might be caused by the pet;

2. Agree to be liable for any and all damages by the pet, a case by case review is necessary before the owner can be held responsible;

3. Remove a pet's vocal cords.

What If the Pet Becomes a Problem?

In the most serious and extreme cases, where the pet's behavior is a nuisance or a threat to health and safety, the Housing Authority can require that the pet be removed. When there is a violation of the pet rules, the Housing Authority must give the owner a written notice of the violation. Before issuing a violation notice, the Housing Authority must make an objective determination, based on facts supported by written statements, that a violation of the pet rules has occurred. This means that the Housing Authority should investigate and make an independent evaluation of whether a lease violation has occurred.

The Written Notice of Violation Must:

1. State the factual bases for the alleged violation;

2. Give the owner ten days to correct the problem or make a written request for a meeting to discuss the matter;

3. Tell the owner that they can bring another person with them to the meeting;

4. Explain that: If the owner ignores the notice, fails to correct the violation, request a meeting, or attend a requested meeting, the pet owner's tenancy may be terminated.

If I Request a Meeting What Will Happen?

The Housing Authority and the pet owner will agree on a time and place to meet. The meeting must occur within fifteen days from the delivery of the violation notice, unless the Housing Authority agrees to a later date. At the meeting, the parties will discuss the violation of the pet rules and how to correct such violation.

If the pet owner fails to correct the pet rule violation or if the pet owner can not correct the violation, the Housing Authority can require that the pet be removed.

The Housing Authority must give written notice requiring removal of the pet which:

1. State the factual reason for finding that the pet rules were violated;

2. Give the pet owner 10 days to remove the pet;

3. Explain that failure to remove the pet will result in action to terminate the tenancy of the pet owner.

Notice to the tenant can be given through the mail, by delivering a copy to an adult at the apartment, or posting the notice on or sliding it under the door. When counting the days from delivery of notice, start counting on the day the notice is mailed or delivered.

What If Something Happens to the Pet Owner and the Owner Is Unable to Care for the Pet?

First, the Housing Authority must contact the party identified by the pet owner when the pet was registered. If the owner can not reach the designated person or if the designated person refuses to care for the pet, the Housing Authority can request that the local animal shelter came and pick up the pet.

When Can the Housing Authority Inspect My Apartment?

1. As provided in your lease for regular maintenance with reasonable notice to the tenant;

2. If there is a signed, written complaint alleging that the conduct or condition of the pet is a nuisance or a threat to health or safety;

3. If the Housing Authority has reasonable grounds to believe that the conduct or condition of a pet constitutes a nuisance or a threat to health or safety.

4. Emergency situations: If a pet becomes vicious, diseased, or behaves in a way that threaten others, the Housing Authority may enter the unit and remove the pet or may request that the local animal shelter come do so but only if the pet owner refuses to remove the pet. The Housing Authority must remove the pet to a facility that will care for the pet at the owner's expense.

While the Housing Authority Is Responsible for Developing Reasonable Pet Rules, Those Rules Should Be:

1. Reasonably related to ensuring that the property is kept safe, sanitary, and good condition;

2. Designed to avoid a negative financial impact on the Housing Authority caused by allowing pets;

3. Narrowly drawn to achieve their goals maintaining a safe, sanitized and cost efficient property without unnecessarily burdening or restricting pet owners.

Susan Reif
Georgia Legal Services Program
Last Revised: December 2003


Last Review and Update: Jun 17, 2003