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Cass Burnett, a 71-year-old Edgewood Terrace resident, has been wary of canines since encountering vicious police dogs while on civil-rights marches in the ’60s and ’70s. “I turn off TVs when they show scenes with dogs,” she says.
When Burnett came to a meeting of her advisory neighborhood commission (ANC) at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church on Dec. 19, a new resident of the neighborhood had brought a dog. Burnett, who volunteers in the commission’s office, says the animal was jumping and yipping throughout the two-hour-plus event. “I was just terrified, because she didn’t have control of the dog,” Burnett says.
At the ANC’s next meeting, on Jan. 20, Burnett offered a resolution barring pets from meetings, citing, among other reasons, that “courtesy dictates that pet owners respect the physical and mental aversions many people have for pets” and that “people of color had vivid memory of dogs and horses as instruments of repression.”
The menace of the commission is named Ilsa; she’s what owner Tracy Hightower calls a “full-blown mutt.” About 55 pounds, she’s black with tan patches, with a short, slightly scraggly coat.
Hightower moved to Eckington in August. About a month later, a break-in next door convinced her she needed some kind of companionship. That same day, she took in Ilsa from a friend, who had adopted the dog from the Washington Animal Rescue League in early 2003.
Hightower brought Ilsa to the December meeting, her first, because she was trying to spend more time bonding with the dog. “She was abandoned,” Hightower says. “She has abandonment issues.”
Gottlieb Simon, the District’s head of ANCs, was at the December meeting. He sat next to Hightower and took a liking to Ilsa, petting her during the meeting. “It was a very affectionate kind of dog,” he says. “It was looking for a pat on the head or the back.”
Simon says that there’s no official regulation of dogs at meetings; individual commissions or meeting venues can make their own rules. Last month, Burnett’s concerns were noted in the ANC’s minutes, though the commission declined to adopt her pet-banning resolution. CP