Courtesy of the Miami Herald
Posted June 11, 2006
her Aventura high-rise, Joyce Starr is celebrating. She can keep her
beloved cat, Little Guy, after a bruising legal fight that cost her
Bonavida Condominium Association $19,200 before the board settled in
feel the bricks were taken off my heart,'' Starr says.
Four flights below her, board member Steven
Weisberg remains upset that other board members capitulated and
''grandfathered'' Starr's cat and a few other pets to get rid of a
costly case. He says he had sold his previous home to get away
from a barking dog,
''It's not fair to people who bought into a
community thinking it does not allow pets,'' Weisberg says. "It's
a hot issue.''
Indeed, ''pet wars'' are raging throughout
South Floridia's condo canyons. To have a pet -- or not -- is
pitting neighbor vs. neighbor, with the legal battles sometimes
costing tens of thousands of dollars.
''We get a lot of vehement complaints --
from both sides,'' says Bill Raphan, assistant state condo
ombudsman. "This can be heated.''
Most older condo communities restrict or
outlaw pets. New condominiums, however, tend to be
TOGETHER: Joyce Starr holds her prized Little Guy, who is
allowed to stay at her no-pets condo.
pet-friendly -- as a sales tool.
even some newer condominiums restrict pets through weight limits or other
some residents don't believe rules are enough. They believe pets don't
belong in condos where neighbors are so close together.
bark or make messes. Birds screech. Many people fear animals. Others are
allergic to cats.
|However, some residents have
been faced with choosing between their home and their pet.
That's what Maida Genser faced after she
moved from Michigan to a Tamarac condo.
She says a real estate agent had assured
her that the Broward complex accepted cats. The condo
documents she was given did not mention a no-pets rule, she
said. But her new board soon issued her an ultimatum: give up
her lakeside condo or her two beloved tabbies. The condo
documents had been amended to ban pets years after the complex
years and a bruising battle later, Spike and Priya still roam
her ground-floor condo after the board gave Genser, 63, a
TOGETHER: Maida Genser of Tamarac has a special exemption to
keep Priya and another cat.
because of her health problems.
''Petting an animal,'' Genser declares, "can be
better than taking a pill.''
That galvanized her to start a statewide campaign to
help other condo pet owners. So far, more than 1,850 people have signed an
online petition on Genser's www.petsincondos.org.
State Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, says he may propose
a bill next year that would allow condo owners to convert to pet-friendly
rules with a bare majority instead of the usual two-thirds vote required to
change condo documents.
''It looks like a pretty good idea,'' he says. ``I'm a
pet lover, too.''
Prospective owners need to carefully read their condo
documents because many who fight no-pet rules haven't been as lucky as
Genser, cautions Raphan at the ombudsman's office.
Judges and arbitrators have evicted dogs and cats,
especially if the original condo documents ban pets, he says.
In Delray Beach, Bernadette Casale, 86, is now
shuttling between a friend's house and her two-bedroom condo to keep her 2
½-pound Chihuahua. Last October, an arbitrator of the state Department of
Business and Professional Regulation ruled against her keeping 7-year-old
Cha Cha in the no-pets Bridgeview Association. The arbitrator rejected a
letter from Casale's doctor stating the dog helped with her medical
maladies. Casale says she didn't have the money to appeal to circuit court.
''It's rough,'' Casale says. ''I come home every once
in a while'' to check the mail at her condo and do other errands. She stays
at her friend's house at night so she can be with Cha Cha. She is planning
to sell her condo and move.
Calls to the Bridgeview Association were not returned.
One solution is for condos to require owner training
to ensure well-behaved pets, recommends Brian Kilcommons, New York's
director of training and animal control, who has written books on dog
''We need to focus on the other end of the leash --
the owners.'' They should also sign a pledge to be good neighbors, he says.
condo complexes already have security cameras and boards could use them to
catch owners who don't pick up after their dogs, he adds.
|Developers are finding that
having pets -- and rules -- sell condos.
''The vast majority of new condos are
open to pets,'' says Israel Kreps, whose public relations
firms represents several developers. ``People want to be able
to have a pet.''
Some developers have even built dog
parks, complete with dispensers of pickup bags, to entice
buyers. Others are allowing dogs larger than 20 or 25 pounds.
Downtown's Metropolitan Miami has found
that opening the doors to bigger dogs draws buyers.
are so many people who have larger dogs but it's difficult to
find a place that takes them. People are so much more
skeptical about allowing them in,'' says Sara Alvarez,
A DOG'S WORLD: The condo Metropolitan Miami welcomes residents who
are dog lovers. Some who have purchased units there are, left to
right, Ada Portillo with Mr. Doggie, Erika Brigham with Henry,
Claudia Urrego with Chiqui and Sara Alvarez with Lady.
bought a unit at the Met. They have two dogs, including a 55-pound golden
Big dogs can be quieter than the teacups, says Mary
Burch, the Tallahassee-based director of the AKC Canine Good Citizen
''A yapping Chihuahua can be more of a pain than a
mastiff who sleeps on the couch all day,'' she says.