Are you allowed to own pets if you don’t have housing for them?

**** The information written here is not legal advice and the author of this blog is not your lawyer.  These posts merely contain ideas to help you plan and organize your legal research and identify potentially helpful sources of law. ****

It is a simple fact of American life that while humans are allowed to walk the streets unaccompanied and without identification, animals cannot. Befriending a bird in the park and involving oneself in that bird’s daily schedule might feel like having a pet, but it is not. Having a pet means being responsible for the animal’s care and safety. In the case of large pets like cats and dogs, not only does this mean feeling internal personal responsibility for feeding and walking a pet, but also having actual legal responsibility for licensing and vaccinating the animal. If an unlicensed animal, or even an untagged animal that is licensed, is captured by municipal authorities, it can be put to death.

Licensing a pet makes owning it legal.[i]  In order to get that license, a pet owner has to pay a fee and give an address where he and the animal live. This doesn’t always mean that by definition a homeless person cannot legally have pets; it can mean that the pet has to be registered to a legitimate address where mailings relating to the pet will be passed along to the homeless owner. This address can be a private home or an organization where the homeless person is known well and maintains regular enough contact to pick up messages.

Your local pet licensing requirements are in your city code.  Find the city code at or, if your city is not included there, by linking through the federal government’s roster of cities.  Looking at your city’s website, you will not only find the code containing ordinances about pet ownership, you will also find the form to submit for that license.

[i] For more information about pet licensing laws, see Margaret C. Jasper, PET LAW, Oceana Press (2007).

2 Replies to “Are you allowed to own pets if you don’t have housing for them?”


    On the rights of homeless people to bring their pets with them when they enter into and live at homeless shelters, I just wanted to leave these links. When I was homeless and approached the shelter with my two small dogs, I had to fight like hell to get them in. Personally, my dogs were the only family I had at that point. And my anxiety was so unmanageable, I brought them everywhere. To get them in, my longtime psychiatrist certified them as service animals (which indeed they are—their calming and focusing effect during my attacks is just a skill I never had to teach them). The shelter I was referred to was forced to admit them under the ADA. But now, “emotional support’ animals like cats, dogs and other animals who have no actual skill or ability in assisting individuals with disabilities (like seeing eye dogs), are recognized by HUD under California’s Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act simply as companions who provide emotional support. Although a shelter may still require some sort of note regarding the pet’s emotional support effects on the patient, it is a much more lenient standard than that required for service animals.

    Note this only applies to shelters that recieve some sort of government funding (so definitely not to religious housing organizations).

    *this is not intended to be legal advice, just shared info from my own journey being homeless in Los Angeles

    1. I so just leaving a little information about being homeless and having an animal you can Google this
      it’s on the internet
      animals are part of your family this is a law that changed
      if I’m correct 2 years ago I believe
      if someone takes your pet that is a crime
      just as if that person took your child
      it is kidnapping they can be held accountable and face very steep charges in the state of California
      If someone harms your pet in any way it is a crime
      many shelters are opening up that allow homeless to take the animals with them to the shelters if you are homeless please look up the laws when it comes to having a pet does not matter if you’re in a house or you’re not in the house that’s still part of your family and laws thank God have changed to protect them if you are homeless also know your rights and your laws

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