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Evacuated? Don't bring your dog here

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published December 07. 2012 4:00AM

I like to think most people come together and help each other in an emergency.

If there is a big storm approaching, for instance, you might open your home to friends or relatives who have been evacuated or lost their power.

We saw a lot of that good Samaritan spirit when Hurricane Sandy hit here in October.

I recently learned, though, of one glaring exception.

If you are a resident of the La Triumphe Apartments on Michelle Lane in Groton, where dogs are not allowed under the terms of everyone's lease, you can't provide any storm refuge to dogs, either.

If your storm evacuee guest during Sandy happened to bring a dog, and management found out, they fined you $500. No exceptions.

I first learned this from a storm evacuee, the owner of a small lap dog who sought shelter at La Triumphe for Sandy. She said her host, the apartment tenant, subsequently received a letter saying he had to pay the $500 "fee" for having a dog in his apartment, or his lease would be terminated.

About 10 other tenants were similarly fined during the Sandy evacuations, the dog owner told me.

Her host has appealed the fine, to no avail, and the $500 charge appeared most recently on his December rent bill.

I thought, when I first heard the story, that there must be some mistake.

But Susan Smilikis, the apartment complex manager, told me that, yes, anyone who allowed a dog on the premises during the storm period was fined $500.

La Triumphe, built in the late 1980s, has more than 300 units. It went into bank foreclosure while still under construction but is now owned by a limited liability corporation managed by Elias Kalimian, a major New York City real-estate investor.

Smilikis told me she had no choice but to follow through and fine people who brought dogs during or after Sandy because she had said no to people who had asked when the storm was approaching.

"During this situation, we had people who called and asked if they could bring dogs, and we said no," Smilikis said. "I can't tell one person no and then let another do it."

Smilikis would not say exactly how many residents were fined for allowing dogs during or after Sandy. But she said it was "way less" than the 10 residents reported to me by the dog-owning storm guest.

Of course, 10 fines, if that were the correct number, would mean $5,000 in additional storm-related revenue for the apartment owner.

Smilikis also scoffed at the notion that tenants were told their leases could be terminated for allowing dogs in their apartments.

She suggested housing laws would prevent that.

And, she said, in the end, damage from Sandy was minimal in the region.

"We were very fortunate in this area," she said. "There were things that happened in other areas that were horrible."

That makes me wonder if there might have been some forgiveness of the fines for dog evacuees at La Triumphe if Sandy's bite had been worse than her bark.

I suspect not.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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