Lawmakers hash out pet peeves over new Juneau legislative housing

a building
Work is still ongoing at the Assembly Building, a former office building that will house legislators and staff next year. (Katie Anastas/KTOO)

Alaska legislators and staff will have a new housing option during this year’s session in Juneau: a former office building that’s been converted into apartments.

It’s just steps away from the Capitol. The rates are about average for Juneau – from $1,100 for a small studio to $1,600 for a large one-bedroom. And the apartments will come with a perk that’s hard to find here: they’ll allow cats and dogs.

But earlier this month, when a House-Senate committee discussed a list of policies for the apartments, not everyone was keen on having furry friends in the building. 

Sen. Donny Olson, a Democrat who represents the Kotzebue, Nome and lower Yukon River regions, worried about odors and allergens.

“You go into a place that has pets, you have that smell that’s there, you have the dander that’s there,” he said.

Rep. Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, worried about damage.

“I once was a landlord and I’m no longer a landlord because of pets,” Johnson said. “They can be very destructive.”

He asked the committee to consider removing the policy.

“I would certainly like an opportunity to vote, as much as I’ll be accused of being a dog and cat hater, that we not jeopardize our investment with pets,” he said.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, led the group of legislators who drafted the apartment policies. He said they talked extensively about whether to allow pets.

“These folks are all going to be either legislators or legislative staff,” he said. “We will have a relationship with them. They will have an interest in keeping the place in good shape.”

Johnson said he was still concerned about the noise, damage and allergies that pets might cause.

“We do have a relationship with the humans that live in those apartments, and it’s not them I’m concerned about,” he said. “We do not have a relationship with the pets that live in the apartment.”

But Johnson’s motion to ax the pet policy failed. That means legislators and staff – along with their pets – will be allowed at the new apartments next year.

Olson said he wanted it on the record that he does have a dog. He’s just “very strict” about where it’s allowed to be.

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