Stillwater rental properties spur pet adoptions after enforcing 'dangerous breed' policy

Stillwater Animal Welfare Brandon is a six-month-old, house trained, blue pit bull terrier.

Six-month-old Brandon needed a new home. He hadn’t done anything wrong, but he couldn’t stay where he was.

As he stares longingly into a camera, his photo is taken and circulated on social media. Would anyone be able to adopt him?

What began for many as a post about pet adoptions quickly turned into a discussion about pet stewardship and tenant/landlord relationships. Brandon was listed by Stillwater Animal Welfare as one of several dogs that were being given up for adoption because a mobile home park now forbade them. It’s not such a cut-and-dried issue, but it leaves an already taxed shelter in a tough spot.

“I could only comment on the fact that the people brought them in or have brought them in for whatever reason they have to give them up. It’s really not for me to say anything about that situation,” Animal Welfare Director Mary Dickey said.

The shelter has received 10 dogs now from the situation as of Friday afternoon. A later social media post from a manager at the properties asked for people who received the letter to come to the office and discuss it, saying that perhaps some tenants were “grandfathered in.”

“Before you give up your babies ... come talk to us at the office,” the post reads. “We are easy to talk to and if you have been in the parks since before Vineyards owned it, as long as your doggie isn’t showing any aggression we aren’t going to kick you out or evict your pet! Sadly we don’t make the rules we just have to enforce them, anyone who has moved in after April 29 has to follow a different set of pet policy rules then those we can grandfather in! If you moved in after April 29, we can also allow for your doggie to stay if you can provide a pet policy that covers."

Right now, many dogs will still need new homes.

“No one has called to get their dogs back,” Dickey said. “We are trying to call somebody today to check to make sure it was accurate that we had to. We were just called a little bit ago to go get another one. It’s been quite a few, actually. Whether or not the people understand that maybe they can keep them or not, we’re just sort of stuck in the middle of that.”

Dickey said the shelter has been overcrowded for several weeks. It’s part of a yearly cycle in Stillwater.

“In the summertime, our adoptions are down,” she said. “In the spring they’re moving out. In the fall they’re moving in. We have everyone on vacation. Stillwater shrinks, and people don’t think about getting a new dog when they are out of town. It’s always been a slow time for that reason. It slows down in the summer but we are having adoptions. It hasn’t stopped.”

It started because residents who live in properties operated by the Vineyards Management Group received a letter about prohibited dog breeds, which included “rottweilers, Staffordshire terriers, pit bull terriers, American bulldogs, akitas, star peis, dalmatians, presa canarios, dobermans, German shepherds, chows, huskies, min pins, great danes, Alaskan malamutes, St. Bernards, mastiffs, wolf hybrids and mixed breeds of any of the above.”

The letter also listed a maximum weight limit of 40 pounds, and did not allow tenants to have visitors with a prohibited dog breed. The letter stated that unapproved pets would constitute a breach of lease. The letter also stated that there could be exceptions granted for service animals, “or for those with an insurance policy with specific coverage for pet damage and for the specific Breed.”

Rebecca Thacker also received the letter. She said it was a reinforcement of already existing policy on a lease she signed several years ago, even though management has changed hands several times since then.

“The first thing you need realize, is that when we signed the lease … it specifically says no dangerous breed, large dogs and you have to sign that,” Thacker said. “It’s not like this is news to anybody and everyone has these large breeds.”

She welcomed the warning, saying it had gotten out of control in some neighborhoods with dogs running unleashed, or owners having multiple large dogs, and dogs barking all hours of the day.

“They’re chasing all the poor neighbor children. My kids can’t even ride their bikes because they’ll get chased, or walk to the bus stop,” she said. “This company so far has done so much to clean up. This is the first one that’s really taken steps to clean it up. I just think (the policy) wasn’t enforced by previous management companies. I’m glad they’re enforcing it. They are also saying, ‘if you have had a pet for a while come and talk to us,’ it’s not like they’re coming in and snatching people’s fur babies in the night.”

As for Animal Welfare, the hope continues that all the pets they have can find new homes. While adoptions may have slowed, they are still always an option for welcoming families any time of year. Now, the need is greater.

“We are having adoptions, so we’re kind of keeping our heads above water,” Dickey said.