Animal Law Update

Florida Prohibits Public Housing Policies that Restrict Dogs Based on Breed, Size, or Weight

By Nicole Pallotta, PhD, Senior Policy Program Manager


Summary: Florida Senate Bill 942 prohibits public housing authorities or local governments from adopting policies that ban dogs based on breed, size, or weight. Dogs deemed dangerous may still be restricted, but this determination must be based on an individual dog’s behavior rather than their breed or physical characteristics — thus effectively addressing public safety concerns while serving the policy goal of ensuring fair access to housing for multispecies families. While Florida’s new law is a positive step forward, it could be strengthened by being more inclusive, covering private rentals as well as public housing. Increasing awareness of the harms — to humans and animals alike — caused by “no-pets” policies and breed restrictions has prompted additional efforts to implement fair housing policies that do not discriminate against responsible animal guardians.

Effective October 1, 2023, Florida Senate Bill 942 prohibits public housing authorities or local governments from adopting policies that ban dogs based on breed, size, or weight. Dogs deemed dangerous may still be restricted; however this determination, and any related requirements, must be based on an individual dog’s behavior, not their breed or physical characteristics.1

Florida SB 942 amends an earlier law passed in 1990 that prohibited local governments from enacting breed-specific legislation but grandfathered in Miami-Dade County and the City of Sunrise, both of which had banned pit bull-type dogs in 1989. The new law removes exemptions for previously enacted breed bans and thus nullifies those 35-year-old bans. It also expands the 1990 law by further prohibiting local governments from enacting regulations based on a dog’s size or weight, in addition to breed.

SB 942 was sponsored by Senator Alexis Calatayud and led by Best Friends Animal Society. The Animal Legal Defense Fund assisted in both direct lobbying and grassroots outreach to help get this bill passed into law.

While Florida’s new law is an important advance, the rental portion applies only to public housing. Advocates are hopeful that private landlords will adopt similar policies, but legislative solutions are needed to limit housing providers’ broad discretion to ban companion animals in all rental contexts, not just government-funded housing.

The Importance of Animal-Inclusive Housing Policies

“No-pets” policies have wide-ranging negative social impacts that extend beyond their immediate effect on individual families. They are a significant contributor to housing insecurity and numerous studies have shown that scarcity in animal-inclusive housing is a top reason why people relinquish their animals to shelter facilities. 2 This is especially true for individuals experiencing economic hardship. One study found that “for respondents who rented, housing reasons were the number one reason for re-homing, and for respondents of lower income, they were significantly more likely to re-home due to cost and housing issues as opposed to pet-related issues” (Weiss et al., 2015, p. 50).


This issue is urgently important as shelter facilities across the U.S. face a post-pandemic crisis of overcrowding and declining adoptions, 3 which has led to an increase in the killing of healthy animals for lack of space.4

Blanket “no pets” bans in rental housing disproportionately affect lower-income households and unfairly burden responsible animal guardians. Companion animal-inclusive5 rental housing is not only harder to find — and thus not always available in desirable or safe locations — but also frequently more expensive. Some landlords charge monthly “pet rent” or require significant additional deposits for tenants who live with companion animals.

It is not only renters who face undue housing burdens related to caring for a companion animal. While homeowners generally have more freedom to live with animals (barring the existence of a breed-specific ordinance), they may find themselves unable to obtain homeowner insurance due to breed-restrictive policies. This is another area where reform is needed.

Recent Developments

Increasing awareness of the harms — to humans and animals alike — caused by “no-pets” policies and breed restrictions has prompted efforts to implement fair housing policies that do not discriminate against responsible animal guardians.

For example, Illinois and Colorado recently prohibited breed discrimination in homeowner insurance policies. As of January 2024, insurance companies in these states cannot deny, cancel, or modify a homeowner’s or renter’s policy based on the breed of their dog. The new laws do, however, permit denial or cancellation of a policy if an “individual dog” is dangerous.6 The shift in focus from breed to individual dog behavior when crafting policy is consistent with recent research showing “dog breed is generally a poor predictor of individual behavior” (Morrill et al., 2022).7

Colorado’s new law also sets limits on how much landlords can charge for companion animal security deposits and so-called “pet rent”— an extra monthly charge for living with an animal.8 Additionally, it includes a legislative declaration that explains the need for this law and comprehensively enumerates the social benefits of “pet-inclusive” affordable housing.9


Importantly, this declaration notes that relinquishing a companion animal due to housing barriers has a harmful impact not only on human family members but also on the physical and emotional well-being of the animal herself.

At the federal level, the Pets Belong with Families Act, reintroduced in 2023, would prohibit breed bans in public housing.10 While enactment would benefit many dogs and their families, this legislation could be improved by prohibiting equally unjustifiable restrictions based on size and weight — as Florida’s new law does.

The new laws in Colorado and Illinois are positive steps, but neither they nor the federal bill prohibit blanket “no pets” policies in rental housing. While Colorado imposes restrictions on how much landlords can charge tenants with companion animals in existing units, it does not mandate needed changes that would create more animal-inclusive housing.

Disparities in Private Versus Public Housing

While Florida’s new law is an important advancement, it would be strengthened by including all rental units, not just public housing. A proposed California bill does just this and, if passed, would be the first such law in the nation to apply to private landlords.

California AB 2216 would prohibit blanket “no pets” policies in all rental units in the state, requiring “landlords to accept pets in their rental properties without imposing any additional pet rents or security deposits.”11 Landlords must have a “reasonable reason” for not allowing a companion animal in a rental unit and would only be able to ask if a prospective tenant lives with an animal after their application has been approved. This bill adopts a similar framework to existing California law prohibiting blanket “no pets” policies in public housing and extends it to all renters in the state.

Some jurisdictions outside the U.S. have enacted laws similar to California’s proposed AB 2216. For example, in 2020, the Australian state of Victoria banned “no pets” policies in all rental housing. While tenants must obtain consent to have a companion animal, landlords cannot refuse the request without a reasonable cause, which then must be approved by a tribunal.12

Familial Status

Though companion animals are not children, housing providers are prohibited from discriminating against families with young children.13 Similar protections are needed for multispecies families.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) it is unlawful for housing providers in the U.S. to discriminate based on “familial status.” This includes refusing to rent to families with children under 18 or evicting tenants once a child joins the family through birth, adoption, or custody. Familial status protections, added to the FHA in 1988, could potentially be expanded to protect renters who live with companion animals. As O’Reilly-Jones (2019) writes:

The statutory language quite apparently refers to human children, and it can be assumed that the federal government had only humans in mind when crafting the amendment. However, shifting American family dynamics call for either an amendment to or a judicial reinterpretation of this definition to include pets. Congress should amend the definition to explicitly include pets as part of the familial status for which landlords may not discriminate against renters. This would prevent landlords from banning renters with pets, evicting renters after they discover the renters have pets, or charging extreme premiums for pet-friendly housing. (p.467)


Basing the determination of whether a dog is “dangerous” on individual behavior rather than breed or size is an effective way to address public safety concerns while serving the policy goal of ensuring fair access to housing for those who share their lives with companion animals. While Florida’s new law is a positive step forward, it could be strengthened by being more inclusive, covering private rentals as well as public housing.


Along with placing undue financial and logistical burdens on tenants, “no pets” policies are an important factor in relinquishment and thus negatively impact animals. Post-pandemic social conditions, including understaffing and crisis-level overcrowding at shelter facilities, have amplified these harmful effects and underscore the urgent need for companion animal-inclusive housing policies in both the public and private sphere.

Further Reading


  1. “This act does not limit any local government or public housing authority from adopting an ordinance or a policy, respectively, to address the safety and welfare concerns caused by attacks on persons or domestic animals, placing further restrictions or additional requirements on owners of dogs that have bitten or attacked persons or domestic animals, or developing procedures and criteria for the implementation of this act, provided that no such regulation is specific to breed, weight, or size and that the provisions of this act are not lessened by such additional regulations or requirements.” (Section 1. Section 767.14, Florida Statutes)
  2. Weiss, Emily, Shannon Gramann, C. Victor Spain, and Margaret Slater. 2015. “Goodbye to a Good Friend: An Exploration of the Re-Homing of Cats and Dogs in the U.S.” Open Journal of Animal Sciences 5:4; Shore, ER, CL Petersen, DK Douglas. 2003. “Moving as a reason for pet relinquishment: A closer look.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 6:1. (…the majority had given up their pets solely because they were moving. Most had relatively low income, were moving for employment reasons, and were renting their homes. Landlord restrictions were an important factor in relinquishment.”); Coe JB, Young I, Lambert K, Dysart L, Nogueira Borden L, Rajić A. 2014. “Scoping review of published research on the relinquishment of companion animals.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 17:3.
  3. The current shelter capacity crisis has been linked to the sharp increase in animal adoptions, particularly of dogs, during the early stages of the pandemic, many of whom were later returned. While some advocates lauded the increased adoptions at the time, this optimism was unfortunately short-sighted.
  4. A sampling of headlines from the past year: “Animal shelters facing nationwide adoption crisis” (KVOA, February 1, 2024); “Animal shelters are overwhelmed by abandoned dogs. Here’s why.” (CBS News, January 9, 2024); “‘This is a crisis right now’: Animal shelters overwhelmed by influx of dogs” (NBC Boston, January 8, 2024); “Surge in Unwanted Dogs Fuels ‘Crisis’ Across U.S. Animal Shelters” (Time, January 7, 2024); “As the pandemic adoption boom cools, pet shelters overflow” (Washington Post, December 25, 2023); “‘We’re inundated’: Animal shelters across the U.S. are overflowing” (Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2023); “Animal shelters struggle as many pets adopted during pandemic are returned” (PBS, February 20, 2023).
  5. The Pet-Inclusive Housing Initiative differentiates between “pet-friendly” and “pet-inclusive” housing policies. Pet-friendly policies allow companion animals but have myriad restrictions, such as those based on breed or weight, and may charge “pet rent” or extra deposits. In contrast, pet-inclusive policies do not impose excess restrictions or fees. (p 7)
  6. Colorado HB23-1068 allows “denial if a specific individual dog is a dangerous dog,” the designation of which would be made either in accordance with state law or “based on sound underwriting and actuarial principles.” Illinois HB1049 states: “An insurer may cancel or refuse to issue or renew any homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy or impose a reasonably increased premium for such policy based on the determination of an individual dog as a dangerous or vicious dog under the Animal Control Act, as determined by underwriting and actuarial principles reasonably derived from actual loss experience of such insurer with that individual dog and any anticipated loss given such loss exposure.” [emphasis added]
  7. Morrill, Kathleen, et. al. 2022. “Ancestry-inclusive dog genomics challenges popular breed stereotypes.” Science. 376:6592.
  8. Colorado HB23-1068 mandates that companion animal security deposits cannot exceed $300 and must be refundable, and so-called “pet rent”— an extra monthly charge for living with an animal — may not exceed $35/month or 1.5% per month of rent, whichever is higher.
  9. The legislative declaration reads:

    (a) Each year tens of thousands of pets enter Colorado’s animal shelters. Frequent reasons for surrendering a pet include issues related to housing, moving, or landlords. Often, rehoming a pet is the last option for an individual or family and it has a detrimental impact on the physical and emotional well-being of the pet and of those who surrender it. (b) A majority of Americans consider their pets to be family members but many people have trouble finding housing because properties are often advertised as ‘pet-friendly’ but include high fees and restrictions, including restrictions on breed, weight, and quantity, that create barriers for pet-owning tenants. Some restrictions even force families to choose between keeping a beloved pet or moving into a new home. (c) Extensive restrictions on pets in the housing context disproportionately impact lower-income households and prevent lower-income households from experiencing the benefits of pet ownership; (d) Due to such restrictions, there is a severe need for the availability of properties in Colorado that welcome pets at a reasonable cost; and (e) It is the intent of the general assembly to encourage housing developers, owners, landlords, insurers, and other operators to increase pet-inclusive affordable housing in Colorado.

  10. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulations permit public housing tenants to have “common household pets” subject to Public Housing Agencies’ (PHA) reasonable requirements, which may include “prohibitions on individual pets, based on certain factors, including the size and weight of pets.” For more on HUD’s requirements and guidance for PHA companion animal policies see: Pet Ownership in Public Housing.
  11. The bill clarifies that a security deposit may be used “to repair damages to the premises that may be caused by, or for any other costs associated with, a common household pet that is owned or otherwise maintained by the tenant in the premises.”
  12. Without data on requests received by the Victorian Administrative and Civil Tribunal, it is impossible to know a) how common it is for landlords to withhold consent for a companion animal and b) in that case, how likely the Tribunal is to approve a landlord’s request to exclude an animal from the property. The website for Consumer Affairs Victoria uses not allowing an animal inside as an example of a negotiating condition a landlord could set, which is troubling from the perspective of companion animal well-being.
  13. See:

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