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Neighborhood Draws Up Pet Policy : Animals: After llama created a furor earlier this year, Bridle Path homeowners come up with four pages of what's OK--and what's not.


SIMI VALLEY — What began with an unwanted llama exploded into a full-blown bureaucracy this week as residents of a semirural housing tract resolved the question of what kind of animals they will tolerate next door.

After six months of debating the merits of peacocks, ponies, pigeons and pot-bellied pigs, the Bridle Path Homeowners Assn. came up with what its members believe is the answer: a four-page policy on pets.

Complete with a permitting process, pet review panel and Noah-esque population limit on personal menageries, the proposed code for the association's 600-plus members is being studied now by city staff.

Louis Pandolfi, homeowners association president, said the proposed policy is an emotional issue for the Bridle Path folk.

"Take away their bunny and it's worse than taking their firstborn," he said.

If city staff decides that the code conflicts enough with existing Simi Valley animal laws, the City Council may have to rule on the matter before members of the homeowners association can vote on it in January, said Laura Kuhn, deputy environmental services director for the city.

If the code passes city muster, the association will vote on the livestock rules at its meeting Jan. 29, Pandolfi said.

Pets have been bones of contention in this placid community in Simi Valley's southern hills since the winter, when Bridle Path homeowners decided that they did not much like a certain llama named Fantasia.

The bucolic neighborhood--where pigs, goats and chickens roam through back-yard barnyards, many properties no larger than half an acre--is only zoned for horses and household pets.

Sand-covered trails lined with split-rail fences take the place of sidewalks, and trees must be manicured to let horse and rider pass beneath, according to homeowner guidelines.

But when resident Mitch Pelter bought his wife, Charmaine, a llama for a Christmas-birthday present last winter, the neighbors started braying.

Llamas, they complained, are exotic, not domesticated, animals and stink, spit, scare the horses and generally clash with the Bridle Path lifestyle.

After rounds of public hearings revealed that many Bridle Path residents were keeping chickens, goats and ducks in violation of city codes--and that many of the anti-llama crowd wanted the other animals to stay--the City Council tossed the issue back to the residents.

But an exception was eventually made for Fantasia--and any other llamas that might be in place, provided that no more llamas were added. Fantasia died over the summer and a replacement llama was brought in with minimal fuss from neighbors.

Meanwhile, a committee of 28 Bridle Path homeowners huddled over the problem and came up with the guidelines proposed this week.

These are some of the proposed rules:

Geese, peacocks, roosters and turkeys are out--too noisy, Pandolfi said.

Goats or pot-bellied pigs are in--but no more than two at a time. And residents can keep up to five each of rabbits, ducks or pigeons. And they can own up to 15 other birds--as long as they weigh less than eight ounces each.

Animal pens must be shoveled out daily to keep odors, flies and other pests to a minimum. And animal housing must be set back at least 50 feet from neighboring homes and eight feet from property line fences.

But llamas, except for the lucky llama that replaced Fantasia, are specifically forbidden, unless approved by the association.

Contraband critters will be, the proposed policy says, "promptly abated by the Homeowners Association."

While that might conjure up images of a gun-toting neighborhood pet executioner, not to worry, Pandolfi said.

"Nothing gets promptly abated," he said wryly. "That's just a nice word for what starts a 12-month process" of citations, appeals and arguments.

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