NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Last year I was scrambling to find a place to live, frustrated because the vast majority of the apartments on Craigslist either did not allow pets or allowed only one (usually a cat or small dog). But I have two cats I was determined to keep, especially in light of a string of recent deaths in my immediate family that strengthened my attachment to my animals. Luckily I found a place on time, but the experience led me to consider the role no-pet and one-pet policies play in the pandemic of pet homelessness and euthanasia in our country. Here in the United States, approximately 12 million cats and dogs are relinquished to animal shelters every year, about half of which are euthanized. In fact, euthanasia of relinquished pets is by far the leading cause of death among cats and dogs in this country. It costs U.S. taxpayers $2 billion annually to impound, shelter, euthanize and dispose of homeless animals. Those that are not euthanized may be sold legally to research laboratories in up to 33 states in a practice known as "pound seizure." According to the National Council of Pet Population Study & Policy, "moving" is the most-cited reason people give for surrendering their animals to shelters, with "landlord issues" close behind. A poll conducted by the Humane Society of the United States showed that 35% of people without pets would own one if their rentals permitted it.
Many state-run or municipal-run public housing agencies allow pets for some people with certain restrictions. For instance, tenants in public housing developments in California who are either disabled or 60 or older may keep up to two small pets per apartment. Minnesota, New Hampshire and the District of Columbia also allow elderly and disabled tenants in state-owned housing to have pets. On the municipal level, the Boston Housing Authority allows a maximum of two pets in one- and two-bedroom apartments and a maximum of three pets in three-bedroom apartments. One town over, the Cambridge Housing Authority allows only birds and fish in their family developments, while cats and dogs are allowed in the elderly developments. In certain instances, people suffering from a mental or physical illness can apply for "reasonable accommodation" exemptions under the American Disability Act by citing the therapeutic benefits of their pets. Likewise, parents with children afflicted with certain disabilities such as autism may also qualify to get an allowance for pets. These requests often require a note from a doctor or medical professional. They are usually decided on a case-by-case basis.