After one of her heart attacks, her cat, realizing that her mother was in trouble, knocked the phone of the hook, which alerted a 911 response.
"If it wasn't for my cat," said Bey while standing in the hallway of the Housing Authority office, "I would not be alive."
Bey was waiting to address the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners on their new pet policy at their Aug. 29 meeting.
"Our poor animals can't even live anymore," said Bey. "What are we supposed to do, put our pets to sleep?"
At least 40 people crowded the tiny hallway with Bey, with at least 20 more people waiting outside, for about 20 minutes before the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners announced that the meeting was being moved to the Hillside Pavilion, located behind the building, to accommodate the large amount of residents attending the meeting.
A proposed new pet policy, which includes a $300 security deposit for any dog or cat and a $25 deposit for a fish tank or bird, has many residents worried that they will have to get rid of their pets.
Too much money
One resident, Terry Suarez, said that her cat and dog, both under the weight and height requirements set by the authority, would cost her more than $1,500 to keep because of the registration fees for each animal, the cost of neutering, declawing and the security deposit for each. This amount did not include the premium for the $10,000 insurance policy required by the Housing Authority.
"West New York's pet policy requires a $100 security deposit and North Bergen requires a $150 deposit," said Suarez. "Why should we pay double?"
Housing Authority Director Virgilio Cabello said that the amount was taken from the Bayonne pet policy, which also set the security deposit at $300.
"The intention of this policy was not to hurt anybody," said Cabello. "When it affects people's pocketbooks, then they pay attention. People have to start taking responsibility for their pets."
Cabello said that the policy is actually meant to protect the tenants, not hurt them. Cabello added that there have been four instances of dogs biting children within the Housing Authority in the past year.
"I understand that the people living here do not have that kind of money," said Cabello, adding that 96 families have signed the policy. "But the families of the children that were bitten did not have the kind of money to pay for the doctor's and the medicine to treat those bites either. This is more for the protection of your neighbor."
However, the unofficial meeting on Aug. 29 did have some of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners changing their tune regarding the new policy they voted for at the April meeting.
"I agree with a pet policy," said Commissioner Christopher Irizarry. "But not necessarily this policy."
"We have to make sure that when we make a decision that it is the right decision for you," said Commissioner Pedro Martinez.
Not set in stone
The board did not have the quorum needed to hold an official meeting; having only three members present at the meeting: Irizarry, Martinez and Theresa Ferrer. However, the commissioners and Cabello listened to everyone's comments.
Cabello said that the pet policy would be revised, with the tenants' input, and reintroduced for the board at their next meeting on Sept. 27.
"We have to have a pet policy," said Cabello. "What that policy is going to look like is up to you."
This policy is part of the Housing Quality and Work Responsibility Act of 1998 that was passed through Congress. The policy states that any resident in public housing may own one or more common household pets. However, the act passed through the federal government and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development did not set any guidelines as to the pet policy. So it was up to individual housing authorities to set parameters for pets.
Cabello said that the guidelines were set based on the policies held in neighboring towns.
As they read now, the guidelines set by the Union City Housing Authority limit tenants in public housing to pets that are domesticated short haired dogs not exceeding 20 pounds, domesticated declawed cats not exceeding 13 pounds, fish in a 20-gallon tank, and domesticated, caged birds. This policy said that no other living creature could be allowed, including gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, ferrets and other common household pets.
The guidelines further limit tenants to only one domesticated dog, cat, or bird per unit.
The new guidelines also ask the residents to pay a $25 application fee for the pet permit and for any residents with a cat or dog to file a Certificate of Insurance with the authority certifying that the applicant has renter's insurance with liability and property damage coverage in the amount of $10,000.
Renter's insurance with a private company can start at around $200 per year.
The residents must also file a Certificate of Municipal Registration of the pet in accordance with local ordinances and file evidence that the pet is in good health and has been inoculated for distemper and rabies.
However, Cabello said that the residents could keep any animals they already have. Cabello also said that after it is passed on Sept. 27, there is a good chance that the entire policy will only be enforced on new tenants; not the existing tenants.
"It is difficult to implement a policy on existing tenants," said Irizarry. "I do not agree with that."