Apartments crack down on 'illegal' pets

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 7:39 p.m.

Clarification: Residents at The Estates who are issued their first pet violation must pay a $250 fine and remove the illegal pet from the property within 24 hours. An earlier version of this article was unclear about the penalty for illegal pets.

After receiving a complaint from a tenant at The Estates apartment complex about a pet eviction notice, the Alachua County Humane Society said Tuesday it would work with local animal shelters to offer pet owners a place to house their animals.

Dogs Rule Inn and Pet Paradise Resort & Day Spa will offer tenants free or discounted sheltering if they received a violation notice this week about an illegal pet – dogs or cats that do not meet the complex's weight and breed restrictions – in their apartment and were being required to remove the animal from the complex within 24 hours.

Amanda Burks, the humane society's executive director, said she contacted several local shelters about sheltering pets after she spoke to a tenant who complained about the notices. Dogs Rule Inn and Pet Paradise Resorts agreed to help.

Jill Davis, director of Dogs Rule Inn, said her shelter, located at 501 SE Second St., would offer free boarding until the end of the semester for tenants who received a notice .

Michelle DiMaggio, management trainee at Pet Paradise Resorts, said the shelter, located at 19518 W. Newberry Road, would offer a free first night and a 30 percent discount -- $25.90 a day – for each day thereafter.

Burks said she and her staff were surprised with the time frame that tenants, many of whom are University of Florida students, were given to remove their pets after they received the notices.

“Twenty four hours is mind-blowing,” she said.

Heather Crowley, regional manager of American Campus Communities, which owns The Estates, said the complex, located at 3527 SW 20th Ave., distributed the notices after they found illegal pets during recent unit inspections.

As part of the complex's leasing policy, residents must register their pets before the animals can be on the property, she said.

If management finds unregistered pets, and they meet the weight and breed restrictions, tenants can register them, she added. However, if unregistered pets aren't within the weight and breed restrictions, tenants must remove their animals and face a $250 fine.

In several interviews at the complex Tuesday, residents said the accepted weight for pets was 35 pounds or lighter. Crowley could not verify this late Tuesday.

Crowley said the complex has always maintained that tenants must register their pets and meet the restrictions.

“We're just following the guidelines of our lease agreement,” she said. “This is something we always do. This is something we're required to do.”

Lilly Kennedy, a 22-year-old UF Spanish and linguistics senior, received a notice Monday about her 4-year-old, 50-pound Labrador mix, Roscoe.

Kennedy said she took the notice to the leasing office Tuesday morning, where a manager told her that “over 100 letters” had been sent to residents around the complex.

Kennedy said she never has registered her dog with the complex in the two years she's lived there. However, she said she never had any issues with Roscoe living with her until recently.

“Management in the past had never really enforced these rules, and now they are,” she said.

Now, facing a pet violation, Kennedy asked a roommate to drive Roscoe down to her father's house in Orlando. Roscoe will stay there until Kennedy moves into her new apartment in August, Kennedy said.

“It's a little stressful – it sucks,” she said. “I definitely love (Roscoe). I want him to be here. It's nice to come home and have someone to greet you.”

In the meantime, Burks said she and her staff will continue to monitor the complex's notices and how tenants respond.

“It will be interesting to see how things unfold,” Burks said.

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