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[personal profile] nodivision
I'd like to introduce you to two very special little men in my life, if you don't know them already.



 


The above spiny gentlemen are Sherlock and Watson, my two pet Hedgehogs.

A little over a year ago I moved into an apartment. At that time I owned Sherlock and was making plans to pick up Watson. As any responsible pet owner would do, at each apartment I looked at I mentioned that I had a hedgehog - often having to explain what that was - and asked about pet policies.

When I went to sign the lease for this apartment, my leasing agent asked me about pets. I told her that I had a hedgehog and would probably have a second soon. She asked what sort of animal that was, and I explained that hedgehogs are small domesticated mammals - similar to having a guinea pig or hamster. They live in cages and do not have free roam of the apartment. At that time she advised me that I didn't need to pay a deposit for a hedgehog, did not need to sign a pet lease for a hedgehog, and I assumed all was fine. I had verbally reported to her that I had these animals, and was told I needed to take no further action.

About a month into living here my building manager came up to ask me about the hedgehogs, as he'd seen the cage when changing a furnace filter. I explained to him what kind of animal they were and told him that my leasing agent had known about them when I moved in and said everything was fine. He said okay and went on his way.

Over this past weekend, I was delivered the forms I needed to sign to renew my lease. There had been changes to the pet policy. The policy now specifically mentions small animals such as hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, etc. It states that a tenant can have up to 2 of these type of animal. It says that there is a $100 nonrefundable deposit for each animal. It does not state that a monthly fee is needed. So I, being a responsible tenant, called the office to make sure I was reading everything correctly before signing. I thought paying a $200 deposit for animals that never leave a cage seemed excessive, so I just wanted to check.

The woman I spoke with at around 12:30 today, after checking with someone else, informed me that hedgehogs are not allowed in my building. She believes them to fall under the category of "wildlife," like if you were trying to keep a raccoon in your apartment. I explained to her that they are not native wildlife, they are in fact domesticated exotic animals who came from pet stores or pet breeders. She didn't seem to care much, just restated her point. I then asked her if she was trying to tell me I have to get rid of them. She said yes. I then brought up the following:

A few months back the building changed its rules to no longer allow dogs. Any new tenant moving in cannot bring a dog. Any tenant already owning a dog and already living here at the time the rule changed is allowed to keep their dog. They are grandfathered in.

I asked the lady I was speaking with why these tenants are allowed to keep their dogs and I am not permitted to keep my beloved pets. At the time I moved in I was told I could have hedgehogs. butShe didn't have an answer for me. I asked if there was someone else I could speak with. She said she would have someone else call me or she would call me back.

I arrived home from work at 3:30 to find a notice on my door. The notice tells me that it has been "discovered" that I have an unauthorized pet in my apartment. "Discovered." Remember how I told my leasing agent? Remember how my building manager checked on the animals shortly after I moved in? But no, because I called them today, they have "discovered" my hedgehogs. The notice tells me I am in violation of my lease. It tells me I must pay a $300 fine in 3 business days and that the animals must be removed immediately or I may face eviction.


Needles to say, this all has me extremely upset. I called the office as soon as I got home from work but they seem to leave extremely early. I left a message explaining that the hedgehogs were declared on the day I signed my lease. I then called my father, who is a cosigner on the lease, and talked him through everything while blubbering through my tears. He also called and left a message.

I am hoping, hoping, hoping that tomorrow my father is able to speak to someone (difficult for me to do so as I am at work and also the blubbering!) and clear this all up. But I am preparing for the worst.

I need to be prepared to find new homes for my hedgehogs as soon as possible. Hedgehogs are amazing pets but they require a lot - precise temperatures, a strict lighting schedule, daily handing, weighing, and often cleaning, and cages and toys that have to be cleaned on a regular basis. They cannot just be taken to the shelter or dropped at a friend's house. I have sent out messages to the online hedgehog community, my local exotic vet, and m friends and family. But finding homes for hedgehogs is not easy. If you or anyone you know has experience with hedgehogs and is willing to help with a rescue or rehoming, please let me know. I am located in Indianapolis, Indiana, and am willing to do a few hours travel to get these guys somewhere safe.

In addition, should this be a more complicated battle that my father and I ty to fight,I'd love advice. I don't know how far I want to pursue this as far as taking legal action, but advice can't hurt. I also do not have funds for any legal help, so if anyone knows any free services in Indiana that I can use, let me know.

:::EDIT:::

THE BOYS ARE STAYING! We were able to get everything worked out, I don't have to pay any fines, and they get to stay right where they have always been. Thank you EVERYONE for you advice and support, I truly appreciate it. I'm glad this was not as long of a battle as it could have been.

Date: 2012-03-07 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefannishwaldo.livejournal.com
I noticed on one of the bigger Hedgehog pages I was able to Google, that my vet comes up as one of the listed vets for your little guys. I have to say, everyone at that vet's office here in Chicago is AMAZING. I would call them (I can give you my legal name if you want to drop it - they know me by sight by now. ;)

I suspect if there's a place to shelter them at least until you can get this sorted, Dr. Byron would know what it is. If you need to get them *to* Chicago, I'd be happy to relay with you for part of the trip as long as we can get schedules to match up.

Anyway, I'd try calling:

Animal House of Chicago
2752 West Lawrence Avenue,
Chicago, Illinois 60625
Phone : 773-878-8002
www.animalhouseofchicago.com

And ask Sandy (the receptionist who will most likely answer the phone) or Dr. Byron or Dr. Jenny what they would suggest for temporary or permanent rehomes in the midwest.

I hope this helps! With love from one exotics lover to another.

Waldo.
Edited Date: 2012-03-07 01:46 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-03-07 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blamebrampton.livejournal.com
I'm not any use to you from a practical or legal view, being a non-American, however, as a journalist, I think that you have the basis of an excellent human interest story in your local media. You are covering off both good citizen screwed over by faceless bureaucrats AND nice person who does weird thing tropes, both of which are very popular.

Do you have more photos like the ones above? A press release starting with their sweet little faces and an attention-grabbing headline such as 'innocent hedgehogs face eviction after bureaucratic bungling!' that then outlines the story you've told above and gives your contact details and available times for interviews could go out to your local papers, TV and community websites.

One of the tricks to winning battles like this is to be more of a problem than the authority is willing to deal with. By going to the media and presenting your case in a simple and respectful way, hammering the 'I have done the right thing at every step and not been able to get any response from these people!' point, you make them look very bad without being provoking or nasty. Even if only the local websites pick up your story, it is still a problem that your landlords (or the agency that covers your tenancy) will not want to deal with.

At the same time, write formal letters of complaint with a demand for negotiation to your landlords and any agencies or managers who are in the chain. If you know the name of the woman you spoke with, include it. If not, give as full and clear a description as possible. Your landlord has acted unreasonably and opened themselves up to criticism in the way they have dealt with you. A lot of the time issues like this arise out of lower functionaries acting like bananas and are solved the minute anyone with a modicum of sense becomes involved.

Send the letters by a method that demands a receipt so that you know they have been received. If your dispute continues, you will want to keep a paper trail.

My experience has been that behaving in a manner that defends your own rights at the same time as being reasonable to others, and making as big a fuss as you need to in order to carry your point, tends to work almost all the time. Since you have acted with good faith in all of this, I think that you will be likely to succeed. Good luck!

Date: 2012-03-07 01:52 am (UTC)
fiveforsilver: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fiveforsilver
Hi, I'm here from [livejournal.com profile] copperbadge. I'm not in Indiana, but I found a couple of links that may help, or at least may be a starting point:

Indianapolis Legal Aid Society
Indiana 211 (or just dial 211)

Legal Aid may be able to advise you on tenants' rights or point you toward an agency that can; pointing you to the correct agency is what 211 is about.

Your little men are adorable. Good luck.

Date: 2012-03-07 02:05 am (UTC)
somnolentblue: statue of a woman from the waist up (Default)
From: [personal profile] somnolentblue
The IU Law School started doing pro bono work for the Indy community with IU-SOC (Indiana University Student Outreach Clinic) last year. At least, I found an article announcing it, but the IU-SOC website doesn't seem to have been updated for a while. There's a Indiana University Student Outreach Clinic Legal Services facebook page, which states that "The IU-SOC Legal Services is open every Saturday from 10am to 2pm", so I would guess, although I can't guarantee, that they're still working in tandem with the IU-SOC medical clinic schedule.

If you have a student affiliation w/ IU, there's an on-campus law firm, Student Legal Services, at IUB that's free for student use.

Date: 2012-03-07 02:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] never-ender.livejournal.com
I am an IU grad student but at the Indianapolis campus. That's something I'll have to look int. Thank you.

Date: 2012-03-07 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] neonhummingbird.livejournal.com
You might contacting Jon Yates, the Problem Solver at the Chicago Tribune; Indiana is definitely in the Tribune's radius, the adorable hedgehogs are a great catch, and getting a call from a major Midwest newspaper often has a salutary effect on petty bureaucrats.

yourproblem@tribune.com

Date: 2012-03-07 02:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stephani673.livejournal.com
You've done well here, but write down everything. You need to document every step you've taken, every person you've talked, every message you've left. Maybe see if the leasing agent will corroborate your disclosure, preferably via email or in writing. I have friends in Indy and I'm trying to get some info for you, but good luck! They're adorable. :)

(Also here from Sam's link.)

Date: 2012-03-07 02:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] never-ender.livejournal.com
one unfortunate thing is that the leasing agent is no longer with the company. I am not sure how much her cooperation would help me, if I can mange to contact her. She also may not remember me, at all.

Date: 2012-03-07 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] oligomer.livejournal.com
I had a similar issue with my cat, where I had a cat, told my landlord I had a cat upon move in and thus was charged first, last, and a deposit. When the lease was change to say no cats, I called to verify I was in the clear, and found that the deposit I paid was classified for "security" not "pet". The person who I signed with was able to verify she made a mistake and I was allowed my cat, despite that she didn't work there any longer. So do try! It's worth it!

Date: 2012-03-07 06:16 am (UTC)
disassembly_rsn: Run over by a UFO (Default)
From: [personal profile] disassembly_rsn
On the point of whether the leasing agent may not remember you - well, she might. I wouldn't think she encountered many hedgehogs in her job.

Date: 2012-03-07 02:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amara-1783.livejournal.com
I'm in New Zealand so I can't be of any help at all, but good luck to you and Sherlock and Watson! (here via Sam's RFM)

Date: 2012-03-07 03:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paragraphs.livejournal.com
I am rooting for your little hedgehogs and I sure hope that by getting your dad involved, much as this bites to have to turn to dear ol' dad (but I have done it when needed, and would again!) that they will back down. You have done everything by the book and heck yeah, your pets deserve to be grandfathered in too. Good luck and I hope it all goes in your favor.

Date: 2012-03-07 03:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] taffimai.livejournal.com
I work in poperty management, so two pieces of advice:

1) Do not have your dad call. Nothing annoys property managers more than helicopter parents.

2) If you are in therapy see if your therapist will write a letter saying that the hedgehogs serve a therapeutic function and your landlord needs to made reasonable accomodations under ADA. Landlords live in fear of ADA lawsuits.

Date: 2012-03-07 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ravenclaw-eric.livejournal.com
I'd think you'd be "grandfathered" even if the lease has changed. I was a landlord (for my sins) for over a decade.

I wouldn't have objected to hedgehogs. The only kind of pets on which I was down were dogs, because they would bark and they would poop in the backyard. And if I let a tenant have a little lapdog, sure as fate, the next bunch would want a Great Dane and howl that I wasn't being fair if I said "no."

Date: 2012-03-07 05:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] never-ender.livejournal.com
My dad is on the lease, so I feel he has just as much right to speak with them about the issue as I do. We are both equal parties in any fees or difficulties, after all, even though he doesn't live here. So he's not just a parent stepping in on my behalf, he's a tenant.

The therapy thing has been mentioned. What a nice out that would be. Unfortunately.. or fortunately? I am not in therapy and never have been.

Date: 2012-03-07 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dorkabunny.livejournal.com
Hi there--I'm here from copperbadge as well.

Have you tried contacting people over at the Purdue veterinary school? I'm a vet student in California, and we get emails all the time from the people trying to rehome or find fosters for pets. If you don't know a student personally, try the teaching hospital administrators. They are generally very nice people, and you're bound to find some experienced vet students willing to give your hedgies a temporary (or permanent!) home.

Date: 2012-03-07 12:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] missjaneregrets.livejournal.com
This is some bullshit. I'm so sorry you have to deal with this.

Those are some adorable fellas!

You've gotten some great advice here, especially about writing everything down, sending a certified letter , getting in touch with the law school and possibly the news options.

It's great to be prepared to find them a foster home, but I would suggest you do NOT move them or pay the fine. It takes a long time to evict someone, and if you move them out, you might lose the grandfathering option. Basically, they're trying to scare you into moving quickly, but you have time to deal with this.

Also, ask your vet for help - they might know the local laws, and could certainly write you a letter explaining what category they fit into.

Good luck!!

Date: 2012-03-07 04:05 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Yeah, I do not plan on taking them out of the building unless I absolutely have to. I know if they leave I won't be able to get them back in.

I contacted my vet last night and heard back this morning and they said they would be happy to speak with management about hedgehogs to confirm that they are indeed domestic pets. So it's good to have them on my side. They're also ready to help me with rehoming if it comes to that. Thank god for them, they are gonig to be a huge help I think.

Date: 2012-03-07 04:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] never-ender.livejournal.com
(oh, this was me, I wasn't logged in, huh)

Date: 2012-03-07 01:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blushingflower.livejournal.com
Here's my theory: You presented these guys with a case they hadn't expected, so they ran with it, and then updated the lease. Because they don't know what hedgehogs are or what category you're running into, you're fighting their ignorance as much as anything else.
Get some documentation about the fact that they're domesticated (a brochure, a letter from your vet), document *every* interaction you've had with property management (with names and at least approximate dates), and talk to someone at one of the legal clinics mentioned above. If you can, schedule an appointment to meet with someone relatively high up (a building manager or someone else with decision-making power) and take all your paperwork with you. Best-case scenario, this is just a misunderstanding and you can work it out (esp. if you have your lawyer with you).
Don't move them until you have to, but have someone on stand-by if you do.
Good luck!

Date: 2012-03-08 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stephani673.livejournal.com
Re: your update

YAY!!!!!!!
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