Assisted living facilities and personal care homes have no obligation to allow cats, dogs, birds, mice or any other pets to reside under their roofs.
State departments regulate the senior living facilities that allow pets, said Christine Reese, press secretary for the Department of Aging, but there is no law stating facilities must allow a resident to have a pet.
"Facilities do not have to allow pets. If they do, they must comply with Section 2800:109," she said, referring to the Pennsylvania code of law.
Assisted living facilities are regulated by the Department of Aging and are required to keep records of rabies vaccinations and to ensure that "pets that are accessible to the residents shall be in good health and nonaggressive to residents," the code states. The facility has the right to charge a fee for pets and must include it in the resident's contract.
Reese said many senior living residences are personal care homes, which are regulated by the state Department of Public Welfare. The same rules on pets apply.
An assisted living residence is defined by the Department of Aging's Long Term Living website as an "age in place," in which the resident does not need to move to other facilities if he or she needs more care. Each resident has a kitchen, bedroom and bath.
Personal care homes can have up to four residents sharing a bedroom.
While studies show that pets aid in emotional health of seniors, not all facilities are up for the challenge of cleaning up after furry residents.
Chris Bear, administrator at Valley View Home, said pets may visit with residents but may not stay overnight.
"We're not prepared to have residents bring cats or dogs," he said. "Pets don't necessarily get along."
He said the facility does accept birds or fish.
And although residents cannot keep dogs or cats, Valley View has cats in residence.
Three cats who have their shots and have quiet personalities live on the premises, Bear said.
"We have staff members who also bring in their family dogs. Sometimes daughters or sons of the residents bring pets in," Bear said.
Missy Weakland, in-home services director with Blair Senior Services, said she sees the downside of residents having to give up their pets.
She said it is common for seniors to refuse to leave their current residences because the cat or dog is not able to go with them.
In most cases, the pet is taken by a family member or donated to the Central Pennsylvania Humane Society.
"For some of [the seniors] it is their only socialization," Weakland said.
Amy Harr of Elmcroft of Duncansville said personnel discovered that residents will not come into the senior living facility without their pets. It is one of the main reasons Elmcroft chose to allow residences to bring pets with them, she said.