Family would rather be homeless than give up their dog

Rocco and Carol Devia; the family also has a Labrador Retriever mix, but landlords have a problem with their pooch who is part Pit Bull Terrier. (Photo credit: Bad Rap)

For the past year, the Devia family of Walnut Creek, Calif., — including husband Peter, wife Carol, and teenage sons Leandro and Christoffer — have been homeless. It wasn’t always that way; up until the moment Peter and Carol were both fired from their newspaper delivery jobs, homelessness never even crossed their minds. But soon after they were terminated, the Devias moved into their car.

The couple says that every time they find a potential place to live, the deal falls through, not because of a bad credit score or unsatisfactory references, but because moving into a new apartment would mean giving up an essential part of their family — their beloved Pit Bull Terrier mix, Rocco.

Landlords don’t usually take issue with the Devia’s other four-legged friend, Labrador Retriever mix Camilla. But Rocco is a different story.

“When landlords see Camilla, they have no problem with her. Everybody will take her,” Carol says of their Lab mix. “But as soon as they see Rocco, they say, ‘Oh no.”

The Devias refuse to part ways with Rocco, whom they’ve raised since he was a puppy.

“I can’t find a place unless I give up my dog, and everyone tells me to, but I can’t do that,” Carol tells ABC News. “We’ve had Camilla her whole life and Rocco [his] whole life.”

Pit Bull owners like the Devias are all too used to this kind of housing discrimination. After all, not every landlord can be as awesome as this one, who not only allows Pit Bull-type dogs to live at her apartment complex but offered a discount on rent in an effort to get 80-pound Pittie Louie adopted in 2012.

Luckily, the Devia family is not alone in their fight to find a home where they can live with Rocco in peace. Animal welfare organization BAD RAP, a group that is dedicated to dispelling the myths about Pit Bull Terriers, has taken an interest in the Devias. BAD RAP supporters have even helped cover the costs of pet-friendly motels to keep the family off the streets over the winter. But the time has come for the family to plant some roots and find a home of their own.

In an effort to improve their chances of finding a home where Rocco can live, too, the Devia family has even taken out an insurance policy, hoping to give landlords peace of mind. They’ve also tried to prove themselves to be responsible Pit Bull owners, going through training classes to better socialize Rocco and improve his behavior.

Rocco wasn’t always the calm and gentle pup he is today. Once, before the family lost their home and before Rocco started going to obedience training, he bit the neighbor’s Dachshund on the snout through the fence, injuring the small dog. The family had to go to court and even purchase a special dog license for Rocco at an annual price tag of $500 for three years of coverage.

But now Rocco is a lot mellower, Carol says, especially since passing through some of BAD RAP’s training classes.

“We’ve noticed a huge difference in his behavior,” she says. “He’s like a totally different dog. He wants to meet everybody and lick everybody.”

And yet despite their efforts, despite all the outreach they’ve tried to do, and despite trying to do the right thing by Rocco and by the landlords they’ve spoken with, the Devias haven’t found a new place to live. But Carol says they haven’t given up hope. She and her husband have even found new night jobs, which have helped the situation tremendously.

“It was hard in the beginning but then you kind of consign yourself to it and say okay,” she says of their situation. “I’m alive, I’m working. I hit bottom, so now I’ve been there and now the only place I can go is up.”

Source: ABC News