1. Mayor Meister, you and have been a resident of West Hollywood for more than 25 years, both as a renter and homeowner. Your parents and sister also call West Hollywood home. What attracted you to first settle here? And more importantly, why do you choose to stay?
My sister lived in West Hollywood first, and I visited often to eat, shop and play! I fell in love with the small town feel, and knew that West Hollywood was home.
2. Did you grow up having pets? If so, what kind and what are your most memorable ones and why?
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and we lived in an apartment, so my folks didn't feel it was fair to have a dog. Also, I was allergic to animals -- small setback! -- although cats much worse than dogs. However, we spent our summers at a bungalow colony in the Catskills, and I took care of the property owner's dog, a collie named Queenie. She remembered us from summer to summer and leaving her at the end of each summer was the hardest thing I had to do as a child. That's when I knew that someday, a dog would be a part of my family.
3. Please tell us about Spike?
Spike is a feisty terrier mix. I adopted him from the rescue group, the Bill Foundation, when he was 3 months old. My 13 year old wheat-able Molly had died a few months earlier. Those few months without Molly were the loneliest I can remember. And that's when I found Spike... or I should say, Spike found me.
4. What makes West Hollywood a shining example of an outstanding pet friendly community compared to other cities in the state, and even the country?
I think it starts with the city's core values: "We promote mutual respect, courtesy, and thoughtfulness in all interactions." From banning cat declawing to banning selling fur, West Hollywood has been a leader with regard to animal issues. Recently I initiated an education campaign about not leaving pets and children in cars on warm days. I'm also working with our state representatives to try to get a bill drafted for a statewide animal abuser registry. Fingers crossed!
5. I was told there are more pets in West Hollywood than children. If yes, why do you think that it is?
I don't know that the proportion of pets in West Hollywood is higher than the national average -- which is over 60% -- but we do have a low percentage of children -- less than 8% of our population are under 19 years of age. So, yes, pets do outnumber children. Perhaps folks with children tend move to areas where they can afford to buy a house or rent a larger apartment. Housing is not cheap in West Hollywood, and apartments outnumber single family homes considerably.
6. Owners of pets in West Hollywood are designated as “Pet Guardians.” When and why did this change take place?
Former Council member and current County Assessor Jeffrey Prang brought that initiative forward a number of years ago. The idea was to get people to understand that pets aren't objects to be owned, but living beings to be taken care of.
7. From your viewpoint what are the most significant challenges facing West Hollywood related to pets today?
There are some code compliance issues -- some pet guardians are not picking up after their dogs, some are walking their dogs "off leash." I've also heard from a few constituents who are concerned that dogs (who are not service dogs) are being called "service dogs" so that they can go into restaurants, grocery stores, etc.
Now, if you ask Spike, he would say that pets need to have more of a voice in the city. He would vote for a Pet Advisory Board -- but the challenge is, how do we successfully (and peacefully) form a pet advisory board that represents the diverse nature of our city's pet constituents (cats, dogs, pygmy goats, potbelly pigs, chickens). Oh my, I see feathers flying!
8. How is the West Hollywood Park renovation progressing?
Please tell us a little about the new dog runs. Spike and I are very excited about this! West Hollywood Park will have two dog park areas -- one for small dogs and one for large dogs. It will take a few years to complete the park renovations, but it will be worth the wait!
9. Rumor has it, pygmy goats, pot belly pigs and chickens are being added to the pets being regulated by West Hollywood Animal Care and Control. Inquiring minds want to know more!
Yes, it's true! We just approved changes to our Zoning Ordinance to allow residents to keep pygmy goats, pot belly pigs and chickens. I guess the demand is there!
10. If Spike could talk, what would he say about you?
Spike would have plenty to say! He would say his mom is very busy working or running around town and that he's glad his grandparents and aunt are here in West Hollywood to keep him company when I'm at meetings.