published Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Chattanooga: Senior public housing residents paying more for animal companions

Audio clip

Bryant Lowery

So many dogs dart through Mary Walker Towers, Betty Ruth Robinson feels like she lives in a kennel.

“They run in the hall and urinate in the flower garden,” said the 72-year-old, who is president of the Mary Walker tenant association and the resident commissioner for the Chattanooga Housing Authority. “We’ve got six dogs, two cats and some birds, too.”

What’s next

The next scheduled Chattanooga Housing Authority board meeting is at 12:30 p.m. March 24 at the central office on 801 N. Holtzclaw Ave

Ms. Robinson was among five housing authority board members who unanimously agreed this month to increase the one-time fee for pet ownership at the authority’s four high-rise buildings for the elderly from $100 to $150.

Residents at the senior sites initially were excluded from the pet-fee increase that applied in January to the authority’s scattered sites and the larger public housing family sites, said Bryant Lowery, CHA’s director of asset management.

“However, after hearing from a lot of residents in our senior community ... we wanted to institute the provision of a $150 nonrefundable, one-time pet fee to deter residents from adopting stray dogs, cats, etc.,” he said.

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The only available waiver of the pet fee is for residents who own medically documented service animals such as guide dogs for the blind, housing authority officials said.

Pet owner Gary McCall, who lives in Boynton Apartments, said he understands the fee increase and is willing to pay it.

“I’m not going to get rid of my dog. She’s my companion,” he said.

Before he purchased his brown-splashed white Jack Russell terrier 10 months ago, Mr. McCall said, he talked to the walls.

“I was pretty lonely without her,” he said.

Mr. McCall said he suspected the pet fee increase was instituted because people were not cleaning up after their pets.

“I carry bags, but I’ve stepped in stuff from other pets that wasn’t picked up, and I don’t like it,” he said.

Pet owner Jeff Tabor, who also lives in the Boynton Apartments, is confined to a wheelchair and said he never went outside before he got Chillie, his 18-month-old terrier. Now he walks his dog every two hours, he said.

“Before she got here, I hardly saw the light of day,” Mr. Tabor said.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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