You may know that Los Angeles has a homeless pet problem and that many of the pets that end up in area shelters are euthanized for lack of space. But did you know that the breed most euthanized in L.A. shelters is pit bull-type breeds? Last year, over 3,800 healthy, adoptable dogs were euthanized in our area shelters.* Of those, almost half were pit bulls.*
Why do pit bulls get euthanized in our shelters at higher rates than other breeds?
Simply put, because there are a lot more of them there. Let’s take a look at some factors.
1.) Pit bulls are among the most popular breeds in America. Yes, you heard that right. “Pits, “pitties,” “pibbles” – whatever you want to call them - live in millions of American homes as cherished family pets.
2.) The economic downturn in 2008 caused catastrophic job loss - 2.6 million, and subsequent home loss – over one million, in just that year alone. In the years that followed, people continued to lose their jobs, and then their homes, at an alarming rate. California was one of the states hardest hit. This devastating loss of homeowners over the years has created a new glut of home renters and a highly competitive rental market.
3.) Many insurance carriers deny coverage to home or property owners where a pit bull resides. If a pit bull isn’t living there when the policy is initiated but moves in later and the insurance company finds out, many will abruptly cancel the policy. (Depending on the company and where you live, this breed discrimination is not limited to pit bulls.) As a result, many landlords prohibit pit bulls on their properties. Even the U.S. Airforce, Army, and Marine Corps ban pit bulls on base and privatized housing, both domestically and abroad. (The Marines’ stand on breed is ironic, given their mascot.)
4.) Pit bull litters can number as many as 12, and many misconceptions still exist around spay and neuter.
Add this all up and what do you get? A whole lot of pit bull lovers who fell on hard times and cannot find a place to live with their beloved family dog. So, an inordinate number of pits end up in our shelters, and shelter staff find themselves continually faced with the question:
What can I do as a Renter to change outcomes for pit bulls?
1.) Do your homework. If you have a pit bull or are considering adopting one, what is your living situation? Is it likely to change? Before committing to a lease, make sure you clearly understand the rental policy around dog ownership generally, and pit bull ownership specifically.
2.) Get liability insurance. In California, a few companies offer liability insurance for both renters and homeowners. Einhorn Insurance is one such company and has some helpful tips on their website about renting with dogs.
3.) Eliminate objections early. Create a rental resume for your dog (or pay $9 and create one online). Include testimonials of past landlords, neighbors, and friends. Attach a picture of your pet’s irresistible cuteness, looking as happy and friendly as possible. Get your dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen and attach the certificate to rental applications.
4.) Plan ahead. If you are considering enlisting in the military and have a pit bull, find a home for your dog prior to signing on the dotted line. Utilize resources like Dogs on Deployment, a national non-profit providing an online network for service members to search for volunteers willing to board pets during their owner’s deployment.
5.) Spay or neuter your dog. Do not add to this catastrophic problem.
6.) Avoid puppy mills and backyard breeders. Adopt your next pet from a shelter, rescue or humane-model pet store. If you did your due diligence and are ready for a dog, consider adopting a pit bull. Even if you adopt another breed, you are impacting pits in a positive way by freeing up space at the shelter or rescue.
7.) Keep them safe. Always keep wearable ID on your pet with your current info, and chip and register your pet in a microchip registry. Registration in the Found Animals Registry is always free.
What can I do as a Property Owner/Landlord to change outcomes for pit bulls?
1.) Examine your insurance policy. If it is breed restrictive, consider changing to a pit-friendly company.
2.) Don’t be “breedist.” Discrimination is ugly in all its forms. Instead, get to know the dog. Interact with both dog and owner to get a true sense of personality and behavior traits. Remember that any dog breed is potentially dangerous. Base your decision on temperament and training.
3.) Be fair with deposits. Does your pet deposit limit a tenant’s ability to live there? Can you employ some flexibility, such as accepting the deposit in multiple payments, or folding it into a few months of rent?
4.) Remember you are in a position to impact a family, either positively or negatively. Whether it is a family of four or a single person, to them, their dog is family. Help keep them out of the shelter.
* LA Animal Services Outcome Totals for Dogs by Fiscal Year From 7/1/14 to 6/30/15
* LA Animal Services Outcome Totals for Pit Bulls by Fiscal Year From 7/1/14 to 6/30/15