Unreal estate

In Council Accommodation, Tenants Want More Rights to Keep Pets

Lorna Kitson first picked up Jessie when she was three months old and sick. She nursed her back to health.

In many ways, caring for Jessie helped with her own health, she says. That was 11 years ago.

“That dog knew me better than a human,” says Kitson. “She was with me all the time. I’d nearly have someone babysitting her if I left the house.”

In April, Kitson moved from Hampton Woods in Finglas, because of a conflict with her neighbours, to Clongriffin.

Jessie, she was told when moving there, couldn’t go with her. Pets aren’t allowed.

“It’s bad enough getting your head around being told that you can’t have children or grandchildren is one thing, but to be told that you can’t have a dog… ,” says Kitson, struggling to catch her breath.

Keeping Pets

Pets are indispensable for many people, said People Before Profit Councillor Andrew Keegan at last week’s meeting of councillors in the council’s North West Area.

They comfort those who are stressed or anxious, and support those who are lonely, he said. “Is there a way, under strict conditions that companion pets can be allowed in a property?”

Keegan wanted Dublin City Council to “soften up the whole approach”. Companion pets should be allowed sometimes, a motion from Keegan said.

Independent Councillor Noeleen Reilly said that if it were her she would ignore the ban. “I don’t think that’s fair at all,” she said.

The council’s area committee passed Keegan’s motion. Next stop for it is the council’s housing committee.

When Kitson was 30 years old, she was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. She was “pushed into early menopause”, she said. Other health problems followed. So did the distress of learning she couldn’t have children.

That’s when she rescued Jessie, a friendly black Jack Russell, from a dog shelter.

If Kitson smuggled Jessie into her apartment complex and was found out, she would get two weeks’ notice to quit, she says.

Who Decides?

Kitson struggled to work out who had the power to relax the rules that mean she can’t bring Jessie to live with her.

Councillors at last week’s North West Area Committee meeting were also confused. Was it apartment owners who had the final say? Or complex managers?

Kitson’s last home, at Hampton Woods, was owned by Dublin City Council. The management company had no problem with Jessie living with her there, she says.

She asked the Iveagh Trust, who manage her new apartment on behalf of the council, why she couldn’t have Jessie with her this time round.

It’s because the council entered into an agreement with the owners’ management company at the complex that no dogs would be allowed, according to Iveagh Trust.

Also, Iveagh Trust has a strict no-pets policy in the buildings it manages for the council “purely because it can cause a lot of difficulties with neighbours”, said a trust spokesperson, by email.

“It just causes difficulty down the line. There’s not sufficient outdoor space for pets to be currently looked after,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Lansdowne Management Company, which manages the common areas in the complex, said it has nothing to do with the Dublin City Council apartments. However, there is a strict no-pets policy throughout the building, for both private and council tenants, they said.

The developer sets the rules for a complex at first, said the Lansdowne Management spokesperson. After that, it’s the owners who meet up annually and set the rules under under Section 5of the Multi-Unit Developments Act of 2011.

Because the council is the owner of their apartments, Kitson and other council tenants don’t get a voice at that annual meeting, though.

Changes Ahead?

Finding landlords who will take people with pets in private-rental homes is tough too, some tenants have said. One group, Tenants4Pets, want a “ban on no-pets clauses”.

Kitson has launched a petition calling for pets to be allowed for those who need them.

Last Saturday, she joined the latest march against the affordable-housing crisis, waving a sign. “Pets are our Children”, it read.

Jessie is currently being looked after by a friend of Kitson, and it was only last month that she could bring herself to visit her canine pal. Before, she said, it would have upset her too much.

Sean Finnan portrait
Sean Finnan

Sean Finnan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. You can reach him at sfinnan@dublininquirer.com.

 

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