Angry pet owners are locked in a battle with Wakefield and District Housing after being told they have to get rid of their animals.
Residents living in flats at the Barracks in Pontefract say they had an agreement when WDH took over council housing stock seven years ago, that tenants who already had pets could keep them for the remainder of their lives, despite a no-cats and dogs clause in the tenancy agreement.
However, now WDH is seeking to enforce the clause, meaning tenants have to get rid of much-loved pets or face possible eviction.
Residents and councillors met WDH area manager Joanne Smith on Tuesday to discuss the issue, but were told the tenancy agreement would be enforced.
Ann Shaw, 64, of Queen’s Avenue, said afterwards: “There’s been no compassion. My dog, Max, is nine, and it was WDH who told me seven years ago I could keep my dog, and now they are reneging.
“I’ve lived here 30 years and always kept dogs. I don’t have children or grandchildren, that dog is my family. It’s very, very upsetting, because the majority of people who do have dogs are by themselves and are knocking on.”
Mrs Smith told the meeting: “We can’t have one set of rules for yourselves at the Barracks and another set of rules for other flats. I think it’s been a bit more emotive here because I understand a previous WDH manager gave a commitment you would be allowed to keep [existing] pets. However, I can’t as area manager override the terms of the tenancy agreement.”
Minutes of the meeting seven years ago where the dispensation was given to residents have since been lost. Under the terms of the tenancy agreement, residents of communal entrance flats are not allowed to have cats and dogs.
Pet owners at the meeting were told they would have to rehome their animals, but residents said their pets were too old and would be turned away by animal shelters, leaving them no alternative but to have them put down.
Resident Eric Beer, 43, of Queen’s Avenue, said: “Why should our dogs have to be put down? You can’t just keep going back to the tenancy agreement, because someone on your side agreed to break it. For some of these people it’s their only companion.”
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Beer, who said he wasn’t told he couldn’t have pets when he moved in over three years ago, said his dog Oscar had changed his life.
He added: “I have post-traumatic stress disorder. Oscar gives me purpose every day, and I work nights, so he’s protecting my flat as well. There six people in my block and they all love him.”
Coun Clive Tennant, who called for a compromise, where existing pets were allowed to remain for the rest of their lives with the understanding residents would not get another animal afterwards, said WDH was being “draconian”, and added: “At the end of the day they are like next of kin.”
Other residents suggested a registration scheme to allow them to keep their pets.
However, Mrs Smith said it would leave WDH open to challenge from tenants elsewhere, which could put it at risk of being taken to the housing Ombudsman and even being found guilty of maladministration.
She agreed to go back to WDH’s legal department, but said residents were in breach of their tenancy agreement and had to get rid of their pets, but added: “We will work sympathetically with residents on an individual basis.
“I have looked at every possible avenue, but the legal information I have been given is that we need to enforce the tenancy agreement.”