Social Development Minister Sue Stultz is suspending the enforcement of the department's no-pet policy in N.B. Housing units while the provincial government reviews its rules.

The provincial government was facing a backlash from residents and concerned citizens after letters were issued informing residents they would have to get rid of their pets or be evicted.

Stultz said Thursday the no-pet policy is being reviewed by her department. There is no word on how long that review will take.

Yolande Cyr Sinstadt, the regional director for the department, is going door-to-door in Parkton Heights in Moncton apologizing to residents who received the notice and thought they would be evicted.

"Our lease says that you have to make arrangements within seven days, not that you'd be evicted in seven days. And I think that the people didn't make the connection and maybe we should have been clearer in our letters," Cyr Sinstadt said.

"It was not intended to cause any stress to anybody. It was basically just a reminder that we're going to be doing a review and until the review is done, the current tenants will be able to keep their pets and each situation will be evaluated thereafter."

Anyone with dangerous pets will still have an investigation carried out.

And, while current tenants won't have to get rid of their pets pending the policy's review, new tenants will not be allowed animals.

"If they need a pet for medical reasons, they will need to ask us and then we'll look at each situation," Cyr Sinstadt said.

Department faced backlash

The Department of Social Development’s decision to enforce a no-pet policy in its subsidized housing units had caused a backlash as some residents were complaining the provincial government was ignoring more serious problems.

Residents and critics had said the provincial government was missing  the larger point. They contend the energy going towards evicting pets from the complexes would be better spent on maintaining the units and helping the communities.

Shanna Worden has lived in N.B. Housing's Beechwood development in Moncton since 2009.

She lives with her eight-year-old son and her four-year-old daughter and admits she has a pet.

But Worden said she doesn't think that should overshadow the fact that she's living in sub-standard conditions.

Worden said the townhouse has mould problems, structural issues and rats’ nests nearby.

"I'd be more concerned about the drugs and crime that's going on. I mean, my vehicle's been vandalized. I've been attacked here, and stuff like that," Worden said.

"I find, like, it's not a huge issue, animals. If you're a responsible pet owner, I don't believe that should be an issue."

The only animal issues, Worden said, that bother her are the rodent problems next to housing units.

'It just seems like a complete misallocation of government resources and time that if they want to fix the problems in social housing do it with the rats not the cats.' — NDP Leader Dominic Cardy

"There was a rodents’ nest over there in number 53 just over the summer time and we had pest control come in and take that out," she said.

"And I volunteer at the community centre over there as well and we had some rodent issues in the basement where we have child care and stuff like that on the next floor up."

It isn’t just Worden that is raising issues about problems at these subsidized housing units.

Kathleen Meagher, who has lived in the Beechwood development for three years, said she wishes the provincial government would deal with the pressing issues instead of focusing on the issue of pets.

"I plug in something in my hallway by my bathroom and my light comes on in my bedroom so that's not cool," Meagher said.

"It's just not right the way things are right now. I think they should be focused on the big picture."

Meagher said she hopes by speaking out about the problems at these housing units, the provincial government will turn its attention from pets to repairs.

New Democratic Party Leader Dominic Cardy said he’s received about a dozen calls from people concerned about the conditions in N.B. Housing units.

Cardy agrees the provincial government should be focusing on more important issues.

"It just seems like a complete misallocation of government resources and time that if they want to fix the problems in social housing do it with the rats not the cats," he said.

Petition circulating

Residents and concerned citizens have been circulating a petition in the area, calling on the minister to halt any attempt to force residents to leave their homes or give up their pets.

Madi Leger does not live in a N.B. Housing unit but she is responsible for the petition.

She said people deserve more from the provincial government.

"They have an obligation to the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society to keep them in at least a reasonable degree of comfort and they need to make that a priority," she said.

Like Worden and Meagher, Leger said she would like the Department of Social Development to put more effort into cleaning up the existing units instead of enforcing this no-pet policy.

"It makes no sense. Why can they get all excited about a couple of little quiet cats and they can't get all excited when somebody's running through the halls at 3 a.m. screaming, or when you've got only one burner working on your stove?" she said.

The provincial government had already demonstrated that it was willing to back down on its no-pet policy.

Earlier this week, Dani Sonier, 19, came forward with his fight to keep his nine-year-old dog, Molly.

Sonier has cerebral palsy and has limited range of motion, so he said he needed his dog. He had letters from therapists and eventually the provincial government agreed to let Molly stay.