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Apartment owner says dog can stay

But a disabled man's family, tired of the hassle and fearing more, plans to leave the complex in St. Petersburg anyway.


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- Brian Vanaman has worried for the past two weeks that he would have to get rid of his dog.

Brian, 22, suffered a stroke when he was 11, leaving him paralyzed and unable to speak. His dog, Chance, has kept him company ever since he found him three years ago under a water fountain in an apartment complex in Rochester, N.Y.

But Brian received two notices from Emerald Pointe Apartments that the 53-pound dog was over the allowable 25-pound weight limit for pets. The second, delivered Monday, said Brian would have to get rid of Chance by Nov. 6 or be evicted.

[Times photo: Lisa DeJong]
Carlene Vanaman hugs her son Brian, 22.
"I was really upset to get the notice," Brian said to his mother, Carlene, in speech that only she and his brother, Anthony, can understand. "I really need Chance around. He's my friend and he helps me out."

Anthony, 16, went to the apartment complex office Monday and demanded to know why Brian had to get rid of the dog. Brian was paying the extra $10 per month cost for having a pet, Anthony said. Also, when Brian signed his lease in April, managers told him it would be okay to keep the dog.

Consolidated Management owned Emerald Pointe Apartments in north St. Petersburg when Brian arrived in April. But they sold the complex to Property Advisors Inc. in July.

Consolidated Management did not enforce a weight limit on pets, Anthony said. But when Property Advisors took over, managers went door-to-door to make sure pets were within the 25-pound limit. They delivered lease violation notices to tenants with pets larger than that.

As soon as the Vanamans received the notice, they arranged to move Chance to a kennel. But Muffin Robin, a supervisor at Property Advisors Inc., said the Vanamans could have kept the dog at least until Nov. 6. And if management received a letter from Brian's doctor stating that he needed the dog for medical reasons, he wouldn't have to give it up.

"At first we didn't know that Brian had the dog to help him with his disability," Robin said. "We simply wanted them to go through the necessary procedures to register the dog. We didn't give them an ultimatum."

Robin received a letter from Brian's doctor Wednesday that supplied the information necessary for him to keep the dog.

But the Vanamans are not going to stay at Emerald Pointe, they said. They plan to move to a location that is more animal-friendly and more accessible to handicapped people.

"I know they're saying they will let us keep the dog for now," Carlene Vanaman said. "But when it comes time for Brian to renew his lease in April, I know they will hassle us. They will come up with reasons why he can't stay."

Chance was in Kellogg Kennel in St. Petersburg Wednesday night. The owners of the kennel brought him back to Brian for a couple of hours Wednesday after they learned that management would allow the family to keep her.

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