The Department of Social Development is continuing to review its pet policy in public housing units several months after it stirred up a controversy by sending out eviction notices to some pet-owning tenants.
In February, several tenants of government-subsidized housing units in Moncton were shocked to receive letters telling them they would have to surrender their pets or move out.
Sue Stultz, the former social development minister, backed down from the plan following the public outcry. However, Stultz ordered a review of the department’s policy on pets in public housing units.
The "no pets" sign is still hanging on the front door of the Lions Tower building in Moncton.
But Jean-Francois Pelletier, a spokesperson with the Department of Social Development, said government officials were in Moncton on Tuesday discussing the pet policy with residents.
"The objective was to ensure the policy balances the obligation to protect residents from dangerous pets or unhealthy living environments, while respecting the important medical benefits that a family pet may bring," he said.
Pelletier said the government working group was in Bathurst on Monday and has plans to visit Saint John next week.
"The focus that we have with them during those meetings is to see what should be the limits placed on the number of pets a tenant could own, what breed or size should be allowed, should there be special consideration given to the approval given to pets of existing tenants," he said.
"What can be done to address concerns of other tenants who are not comfortable with animals."
Pelletier said he isn't sure how long the review could take. He said the existing pet policy is 25 years old.
While the policy has been around for a long time, some tenants still had pets in their homes. The enforcement of the policy in February prompted seniors to protest outside of Stultz’s office.
Before the order was given to re-evaluate the entire policy, the provincial government also rescinded a notice to remove a dog from Dani Sonier, a 19-year-old man who has cerebral palsy.
Sonier had been told he would have to give up his nine-year-old dog, Molly.
Sonier forwarded letters from therapists saying he needed to keep his dog.
Months after the controversy died down, some tenants are sympathetic to pet owners.
But Yvon Bois, who lives in Lions Tower, said he does not believe people should be breaking the rules.
"I can understand the lady wants some pets, you know they feel lonely, stuff like that. But the thing was, they signed a lease and the lease stipulates there is no pets here. So they didn't respect the lease," he said.
Since the issue surfaced in February, Pelletier said there have been no complaints about pets in public housing facilities.
Once the working group has completed its research, it will present its report to new Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé.
Earlier this year, the provincial government did take steps to apologize to residents who had received the eviction notices.
A regional director for the department was sent to the public housing units to go door-to-door and speak with residents who had received the eviction notices.
NDP Leader Dominic Cardy harshly criticized the provincial government’s actions in February, calling the initial decision "a complete misallocation of government resources."