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Seniors told no pets in Wadena Commercial Apartments, Fair Oaks

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Two cats were surrendered to the Wadena County Humane Society because of rules forbidding new assisted living tenants and senior apartments from having pets. Both cats have found new homes, but the cat shown was up for adoption at the time the photo was taken.

Pet owners considering a move to the Commercial Apartments or Fair Oaks Apartments would either have to surrender their companion animals or look elsewhere because of new rules adopted by the Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority (WHRA) that went into effect about a year ago.

The Commercial Apartments in downtown Wadena are for age 55 and older, and the Fair Oaks Apartments are independent and assisted living apartments connected to the nursing home. There are 16 apartment units at Commercial, and 32 at Fair Oaks.

Dianne Rousslang, executive director of the WHRA, said the pet restriction does not apply to Humphrey Manor because it is federally subsidized. It is also the largest complex at 120 units.

"Humphrey Manor does allow pets," she said.

The rule also does not apply to service animals.

Carolyn Hartman, volunteer shelter manager of the Wadena County Humane Society, said that two people had to surrender their cats within the last two months when they were required to sign the lease excluding any pet.

The two cats were no longer at the Humane Society.

"Both of them have been adopted out to really excellent homes," she said.

Hartman said that pets are very important to seniors.

Rousslang said the rule was enacted after conducting a survey with the tenants of the Commercial Apartments. At that time, there were no pet owners, and the 14 of the 16 surveys returned unanimously voted on a no smoking and no pet policy.

She said that she was not aware if existing tenants at Fair Oaks Apartments had any pets, but if they did, they were grandfathered in and would be able to keep them.

She cited maintenance issues as among the reasons for the no pet policy, along with cat allergies.

"Once they move into an apartment, and if there was ever a cat in there, even though it's very well cleaned before they move in, it can be quite an added expense," she said.

Rousslang said she was unaware that anyone had to give up a pet.