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NAPLES, Italy — Support site residents may have some new neighbors starting in May. But these neighbors are the four-legged variety.

The Navy announced Friday that dogs will be permitted in Gricignano family housing units, reversing a long-standing policy.

The change, announced Friday in the base newspaper, had been hinted at during last month’s town hall meeting by base commanding officer Capt. Robert Rabuse. Rabuse said at the time he was considering lifting the ban to help raise base housing occupancy rates to the target rate of 99 percent.

Currently, occupancy stands at about 89 percent.

"If the Navy felt allowing dogs on the base would help resolve the issues of occupancy, we support that," said Francesco Coppola, managing director for Mirabella S.G., the company that leases the support site to the Navy.

"It was the Navy’s decision, and we’ll work to help minimize some of the inconveniences and maintain sanitary conditions," Coppola said.

Separate waste receptacles will be placed in several areas on base to dispose of dog waste, according to Cmdr. Stephen Schutt, Naval Support Activity, Naples executive officer.

Sanitation, however, was not the only concern raised by residents.

"It’s gonna be awful. I can already hear my neighbors through the walls now," said Joanne Burch, a military spouse who has lived in Naples for five years. "This base isn’t really suitable for dogs, and I doubt the rules will be followed or enforced."

Residents will have the chance to voice their concerns Tuesday night. The command is hosting a town hall meeting at the support site theater at 6 p.m. to discuss the new policy.

Under the policy, pets wouldn’t be allowed in any public facilities on base, including the pavilions, playgrounds, schools or ball fields, according to an article in Friday’s base newspaper. Dogs and cats will have to be fitted with a microchip and registered with the base vet clinic when residents check in or transfer.

If the command determines a pet is a nuisance, the owners will no longer be allowed to keep their pets in government quarters, Schutt said. If an animal bites someone, owners will have to keep it muzzled. A second biting incident means the pet will no longer be allowed to live on base.

Several residents said having dogs on base will create new problems.

"Dogs need to be in a backyard enjoying the outdoors, not cooped up in an apartment all day," said Jacqueline Diaz, a support site resident who does volunteer work with stray and abandoned animals. "Especially if both spouses work and the kids are in school. It would be ideal if we had backyards, but we’re just not set up for that."

Town hall meetingWhen: Tuesday at 6 p.m.Where: Base theater, Gricignano support siteWhy: To discuss the new base policy of allowing dogs to live in base housing units.

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