JoAnna Lou
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Family Lives Out of Car to Keep Dogs
Having a Pit Bull Makes Renting Challenging

Last week Shirley Zindler wrote about homeless people and their dogs, the hard life they lead and the difficult choices they have to make. It made me think of a family in Walnut Creek, California—Carol and Peter Devia and their two sons Leandro and Christoffer—who made the choice to live out of their car rather than give up their pups, Camilla and Rocco.

Last year Carol and Peter were fired from their jobs and evicted from their apartment. With their savings dwindling rapidly, they couldn't find a place to live with both of their dogs. While landlords had no problem with Camilla, a Labrador mix, they balked when they met Rocco, a Pit Bull.

Carol says that people keep advising her to give up Rocco, but that is something they could never do. They've had both dogs since they were puppies, with Rocco sleeping next to them every night.

Rocco wasn't always a saint, but from the beginning you can see that the Devias are completely committed to their dogs. After Rocco bit a Dachshund who stuck his nose in the family's yard, the Devias started taking Rocco to classes at BAD RAP, a Pit Bull advocacy organization, which transformed his behavior.

Finding affordable dog friendly housing can be difficult, but it's particularly challenging with a Bully breed. Pit Bulls are most likely to be turned away by landlords, which means they're often the first ones left behind at the animal shelter.

Donna Reynolds, the director of BAD RAP, says that the organization gets countless inquiries from people wanting to rehome their Pit Bull because they can't find housing. Donna advises families to ask friends help, post ads on Craigslist, and to seek help from rescue organizations. She also recommends getting an insurance policy on the dog, so any liability doesn't fall to the landlord, although that hasn't helped Rocco's case.

For now the Devias are making the best of their situation, cooking meals with a Crock-Pot that plugs into the car and driving to the local park to exercise the dogs. The good news is that Carol and Peter are now employed, so they're hopeful they'll be able to find housing soon.

Have you experienced breed discrimination when looking for a rental?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by shirley zindler | March 4 2014 |

As an animal control officer I see people every day who give up their dogs for the slightest issue or no reason at all. I really appreciate people who sacrifice for their dogs and make a lasting commitment to them. Best wishes to the Devia family in finding a home that welcomes all of them.

Submitted by gerri jones | March 5 2014 |

My husband and I have two dogs. One american pit and one catahoula hound. We moved to washington state in 2011, and we just moved into a rental house in Nov 1, 2013, it is hard to find a place when you have two huge dogs. And one is a potty! They weigh 215 lbs total weight combined. We had to live in a dog friendly motel, and paid 300 a week. Thank God we found our house. Dogs have a yard as well. Best ever!

Submitted by Maidyn | March 5 2014 |

My Husband left me with 2 small breed puppies. The house foreclosed and I've had to pay a higher security deposit plus higher rent, when I can find a place that accepts 2 dogs.

Submitted by robin | March 8 2014 |

These folks are my kind of people. You don't abandon kids or dogs. Period. It's a shame society can be so unpleasant and lack understanding but it makes the reward at the end all the sweeter. Good luck to them all.
I just made a home visit, as a social worker, to a lovely complex that I had been to prior, some time back. Very very sad to pull up to the gate house and see a LARGE sign that says NO DOGS ALLOWED. Pathetic that the owners/tenants whomever, are so ignorant that they don't realize the value to health and well-being companionship provides. All they need is to hold people responsible.

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