Documentary captures pet owners struggles

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Fallan Patterson

Published January 15, 2010


Hoping to garner more attention to her organization and its cause, Citizens for Pets in Condos founder Maida Genser is producing a documentary she said she plans to debut at the Delray Beach Film Festival in March. 

The documentary will feature more than 30 condo residents and their pets from Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties while recounting the often long legal battles, heartache and hardships people have to face in order to keep a beloved pet where they live inside a community associations.

"I'm doing the documentary to let people know there is a movement to make change," Genser said. "There's an issue we're trying to address and Florida is out of sync with the rest of the country."

Genser has spent more than a year collecting stories with volunteer videographer Phil Pelissier, a Lauderdale Lakes condo owner. Pelissier said he has no pets because the condo does not allow them and he often travels for work. 

"I know people send pets to places to get euthanized and I think Maida's organization can help people in condos adopt these pets," Pelissier said. "It's an issue that has a solution. [The documentary] will make people more aware."

Renee Kallman spent eight months getting approved to keep her 8-year-old Chihuahua, Lilly, in the West Palm Beach condo she inherited. Kallman, a snowbird from New York, said she needs Lilly as an emotional-support animal after her mother and brother died in 2008. 

"Everyone should be treated equally in a condo and if they need an emotional-support animal, people should have their right [to] a pet," Kallman said. 

Emotional-support animals are sometimes recommended by doctors and can aid in certain medical ailments including depression, anxiety and fibromyalgia, according to the group.

Pompano Beach condo owner Andrea Spingarn has been in a legal battle with her condo association since March over her cat, Quinn. 

"It's been a horror. I just want to be left alone and be able to keep the cat," Spingarn said. "I want to help other people in my situation."

Spingarn, who suffered from insomnia and depression after her mother's death in 2006, is scheduled to tape another segment to document the outcome of her case.

Genser said she hopes the documentary will shed light on owner's stories and aid in patching relationships between pet owners and associations that are afraid of the problems animals can bring into a community.

"The idea is to make everyone happy," Genser said. "That people who want to have pets can have pets, to give pets homes and to help make associations pet friendly."

Gayle Louis taped a segment for the documentary in hopes it will help Century Village in Pembroke Pines approve her 11-year-old Japanese Chin, Kobe. 

"I actually live in fear because I will not get rid of the dog and I can't afford to move," said Louis, who rescued Kobe in August and nursed him from two pounds to his current weight of 10 pounds. 

Elaine Lyon moved from Montana to Delray Beach to help her elderly parents and brought her two dogs: Penny and Leah. Her parents are currently being sued by the association for fraud because of the animals. 

"I had to give up so much to come here and to give up my dogs would just put me over the edge," Lyon said. 

For information about the Citizens for Pets in Condos documentary, visit