Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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Furry friends could become more common at one-third of public housing properties in the District. On Wednesday, the D.C. Housing Authority’s Board of Commissioners voted to let people living in DCHA buildings that are designated for elderly and disabled low-income residents own certain pets. For more than a decade, pets have been banned in the city’s public housing in the vast majority of circumstances. Animal-welfare advocates, who pushed for greater allowances leading up to the vote, are cheering the board’s action, but with mixed feelings.

Roughly 2,750 households will be made eligible for pet-ownership under the new policy. Still, the rules contain restrictions on pet sizes. For example, a dog may not weigh more than 40 pounds or be taller than 20 inches, up from 15 inches in the draft regulations circulated last month. (Service animals and pets that were grandfathered in when DCHA’s pet policy was updated in 2005 are exempt.) Senior tenants and those with disabilities may own up to two pets, including “dogs, cats, birds, rodents, fish, [and] turtles,” though “a reasonable number of fish or other animals appropriately kept in an aquarium or cage” get counted as one pet.

The new regulations will benefit a fraction of the 50,000 residents across nearly 60 public housing sites. “We are pleased to see DCHA adopt a pet policy that will open the doors to thousands of new homes for pets currently waiting to be adopted from local shelters and rescue groups,” says Deborah Press, director of regulatory affairs at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “But we will continue to fight for those residents excluded from the policy who are eager to share their loving homes with a new pet.” Press’ organization and the D.C.-based Human Rescue Alliance spearheaded advocates’ efforts.

DCHA has said many of its tenants support pet-size limits. Per the new rules, the authority is offering “amnesty” to any tenant who currently owns a pet, regardless of its size, provided that the tenant registers the animal within 90 days. There are no breed restrictions for dogs.