The county Housing Commission has tentatively approved a pet policy requiring residents of the Carmelitos public housing project in Long Beach to pay an animal deposit and carry liability insurance to cover their dogs or cats.
Despite protest from angry Carmelitos residents, the seven-member commission voted unanimously last week to approve the new policy, which would also restrict many residents from getting new pets.
The regulations now must go before the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors--probably in June--for final approval, said Mel Rice, housing management director for the county Housing Authority.
Under the policy, residents of Carmelitos and other county housing projects would be required to pay a $75 deposit for each dog and cat they own. In addition, they must obtain a $25,000 liability insurance policy to protect against property and personal injury claims against their pets. Such insurance generally costs less than $5 a month, county housing officials say.
When a pet dies, residents under the age of 60 would be prevented from getting a new one. Elderly tenants would be allowed to replace their pets, but would still have to pay the deposit and obtain insurance. All new animals would have to weigh less than 30 pounds.
Tenants say that the deposit and insurance requirements would make it more difficult for the elderly to have pets.
"I've got three little dogs, and I know I won't be able to afford it," John Russell, 78, said after the meeting. "Those dogs are all the family I've got in the world."
Rice maintained that the Carmelitos residents, most of whom live on Social Security benefits, have sufficient funds to pay the animal deposits and get insurance. Under the proposed policy, residents would be able to spread deposit payments over 10 months.
The proposed policy is part of an effort to reduce the pet population at Carmelitos by attrition, Rice said. A long-awaited renovation of the housing units is nearing completion, he said, and housing officials want to reduce the chances for damage to the modernized units.
Commissioner Harry Freed, who took a tour of Carmelitos recently, said pets have already caused wear and tear on some of the new units.
"Wherever there were dogs, the lawns were shot," Freed said. "When something is wrong, it's wrong. We have to have some rules for everyone's benefit."
Population to Double
Carmelitos, the only low-income residential project in Long Beach, currently houses about 800 people. The population is expected to double within the next year as unusable units are renovated.
"It's a real emotional thing," Rice said following the meeting. "That's why we didn't go for total elimination of pets. We thought this attrition thing was the best way."
Carmelitos residents, however, said county housing officials are being insensitive.
"They know that on our incomes this would be really hard on us," said Bular Dale, 69, who owns a cocker spaniel named Rico. "My little puppy is a friend of mine. He's just a lot of company to me."
While elderly residents such as Dale would be able to replace their animals, younger tenants will not have that option.
"It's just another effort by the Housing Authority to strip tenants of the rights they've had for many years," said Glenn Crout, co-chairman of the Tenant Action Committee, a resident organization.
Peggy Pollock, meanwhile, promises that she will fight back.
Pollock, 63, has two small dogs, Piper and Buffy, and lives on the $504 Social Security check she gets each month.
"I'm going to battle it down to an eviction," she said. "I simply don't have the money. You can't squeeze blood from a turnip."