HUNTINGTON PARK — Laurel R. Goodwin says the ultimatum is dog-gone unfair and she's going to fight City Hall.
Goodwin lives with her husband, Thomas, and three dogs in an apartment in the 6000 block of Middleton Street. She has been given notice that she has until the end of January to get rid of two of her animals to comply with a city law that limits apartment dwellers to one dog.
Goodwin, who could be charged with a misdemeanor if she fails to comply, said she has begun circulating a petition and plans to ask the City Council next week to amend the Municipal Code.
"I've had (the dogs) for the last five years, and they're an important part of my family," Goodwin, 36, said this week. "It would be like giving away a member of your family."
The holiday season turned sad for Goodwin and her dogs--Crimson Shadow, a Doberman pinscher; Scottie, a Scottish terrier, and Lady, a cocker spaniel mix--on Dec. 15, when a code enforcement officer informed Goodwin of the violation.
At first, Goodwin was given 15 days to reduce the pack to one. But Goodwin appealed to Mayor Thomas E. Jackson, who extended the deadline until the end of January.
"Enjoy your holidays," Jackson wrote to Goodwin. "We will talk about this matter after the first of the year."
What it all comes down to, city officials say, is sanitation and controlling nuisances in a dense, urban area. About 55,000 people live in the three-square-mile city, and health problems could develop if the dog population is not kept in check, one official said.
"It breeds a lot of unsanitary conditions, their droppings, fleas and so forth," said Jack Wong, assistant director of community development.
The Municipal Code allows residents of single-family homes to keep three dogs. But the limit is reduced to one in areas zoned for apartments, such as Goodwin's neighborhood.
But Goodwin said it is inappropriate for Huntington Park to leash her in, especially when other cities are more permissive.
She points to South Gate, for example, which allows four dogs per residence, whether a single-family home or an apartment.
A check of other nearby cities shows that Downey allows three dogs per single-family residence, two per duplex and one per apartment. Whittier allows three dogs per single-family residence and two per duplex or apartment. Cerritos and Maywood allow three dogs per residence, whether it is a single-family home or an apartment, officials said.
Goodwin has another bone to pick as well. She claims that she is being singled out for enforcement, saying she has counted eight other families in her neighborhood with more than one dog.
"If you're going to make one family get rid of their dogs, they should make everyone comply," she said.
Wong acknowledged that pet restrictions are not strictly enforced unless there is a complaint. The city contacted Goodwin after a neighbor complained about the dogs barking, he said.
Goodwin insisted that her dogs are well trained and do not bark or otherwise create a nuisance. She said that they spend most of the day inside her apartment--a flat in an aging, two-story house--and that when she walks them, she cleans up any mess they make.
Goodwin said she never intended to own three dogs but will fight to keep them now that she has them. Scottie and Lady were gifts, she said, and she bought Crimson Shadow for protection in the summer of 1986.
Though sympathizing with Goodwin, Wong said it is unlikely that the city will allow her to have three dogs.
"We realized it's kind of a distasteful thing to ask someone to do, but it's in our code for a specific reason, because of health conditions," Wong said.
Lamenting about how difficult it is to fight City Hall, Goodwin contemplated the tough decision she may face.
"It's like trying to decide which of your children to give away," she said.