I just don't understand the oppressive no-pet policies that are so common in 55+ housing in south Florida (USA).  People who own their own dwellings in condominiums, trailer parks, and even stand alone housing areas covered by home owner associations are severely restricted in what they can do inside their own four walls.

It at least makes a smidgeon of sense to restrict dogs because they can mess outside and they can bark.  Neither of these issues should be a problem with responsible owners.  But how can anyone justify not allowing cats?

It is difficult to categorize this issue because it is partly an animal issue and partly a human issue.  Animal rights advocates and animal welfare/pet law advocates alike can all agree that it is a problem for pet placement if a large segment of the population is not allowed to have pets. Too many strays end up being euthanized.  Too few pets from breeders are bought.

Senior rights advocates should be very concerned about no-pet laws.  There is an abundant amount of evidence that older people could benefit from animal companionship.  Having a pet has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure, add a bit more exercise and a reason to get up in the morning.

Almost 65 percent of all US households have pets.  How is 0 percent for Florida seniors justified?  It seems that there are "cookie cutter" rules in almost all senior complexes in south Florida.  Developers sometimes have initial rules that allow original owners to bring a pet in, just to get their money out quickly, but their mentality as apartment complex developers has led them to add restrictions on future pets.  The original owners are told they cannot replace their pet once it passes away.  Old-thinking seniors accepted this to be able to get in with their beloved pets, never thinking they would outlive them.  New owners are restricted from bringing pets in.  These rules are so prevalent that it almost seems like there is some kind of conspiracy.

It is such a natural human desire (to have animal companions) that it is common for people to hide small pets inside their homes.  It is a tragedy when a condo board or home owners association goes after people and ask them to remove their pets.  Pets are NOT disposable.  (see the related article by Pauline Dewberry, "Are pets really disposable?" [see: Disposable Pets]

Seniors often don't know their rights.  Even if a condo board has a no-pet rule, you can keep a pet if you have a letter from a doctor saying you have a disability and that having a pet helps alleviate symptoms of that disability.  Such a letter reclassifies your animal companion as a helper animal.  You do not have to have a physical disability to "trump" the no-pet rules.  You are allowed an emotional support animal for a clinically diagnosed emotional disorder such as depression or anxiety.  A medical diagnosis should not be challenged by an association.  There is no need to substantiate details of your condition once there is a clinical diagnosis. If an association challenges or denies a doctors letter, they can be sued for failing to make reasonable accommodations for a disabled person.  This is a serious infringement of disability law and the association can be fined in the thousands of dollars.  Several cases have been settled in Florida for tens of thousands of dollars.

It is a shame that the people who want pets are considered sick.  Isn't it actually the other way around:  The people who don't want animals around are somehow emotionally incomplete as humans.

Citizens for Pets in Condos was started to raise awareness of the pet restriction issue and to provide information about health benefits of animals companions and relevant legal rights information.  Our web page [http://www.petsincondos.org] also has stories and letters.

Please join me in this effort to change attitudes and no-sense no-pet rules.  You can help by signing our petition to allow pets in condos at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/738171316.

A Cats Prayer

Lead me down all the right paths,
Keep me from fleas, bees, and baths.
Let me in should it storm,
Keep me safe, fed, and warm.

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