Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pets are a health benefit, not a risk to tenants

I would like to address Avrom Charach's op-ed piece by firstly acknowledging the 800-pound gorilla in the middle of the room (Your pet, my problem, March 6). Charach is a landlord, and as such is not a public health advocate, a medical professional, or anyone that is remotely interested in or versed in public welfare.

He is interested in profiting, and allowing pets into communal-type housing arrangements may undeniably eat into that profit slightly, with higher administration costs for management. Let me point out that this is part of doing business when you are managing buildings with dozens of suites and tenants, families, and all the associated headaches therein.

It is interesting that Charach addresses the hazard of second-hand smoke in communal spaces and living quarters. Are all of his buildings and units smoke-free? Does he deign to dictate to his tenants whether they can smoke in their own units, and thus pollute their and the surrounding apartments and tenants' lungs with one of the most noxious, offensive, and proven dangers to public health in the last century?

Or does such a habit, with its insidious fumes and smoke, containing dozens of carcinogenic chemicals fall under the umbrella of personal rights and liberties to which one is entitled when living under their own (and yet communally-shared) roof? So let me get this straight, Mr. Charach: You are not opposed to allowing tenants to smoke and pollute your other tenants' lungs because the undeniable damage and filth from that public health threat can easily be painted and steam-cleaned over, thus not cutting as wide a swath into your profit?

As a health professional, I also resent Charach's overblown hearsay and hyperbole about third-hand accounts of overly sensitive allergic and asthmatic reactions from dander shed by one pet during one encounter ending up hospitalizing the victim. Not only should these unwitnessed events be taken with a large grain of salt, there could have been numerous other culprits responsible. In the unlikely event that Charach's account is factual, then these are clearly anomalous, outlier, infrequent, and not reproducible events.

The credo of public health is that sometimes the benefit of the many must come at the expense of the few. There are many more health benefits to pet ownership -- cardiovascular and mental health, companionship for elderly individuals that allows them to remain independent in the community -- than there are insidious public health threats. My suggestion would be twofold: First, tenants with such rampant environmental sensitivity and friable health status would be better served living in a more isolated and controlled environment, wherein the due rights and freedoms of others do not negatively affect their health. Second, if Charach's concern for the public health is as genuine as he tries to portray, he may want to exit property management, which is more concerned with profit, and educate himself more on the matters of which he tries to expound.


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