FURIOUS animal lovers have slammed a "money-making scheme" to tax them for keeping a pet.

Shock proposals to impose the one-off �36 "pet tax" on apartment leaseholders at Kennet Island, south Reading, were announced in a letter last week from property bosses Hallmark Property Management.

Jennifer Darlow, who works at Whitley's Sure Start, keeps a house rabbit in her flat and said: "I have been a resident here for almost five years and was shocked to receive the letter. A lot of the people that live here were told it would be fine to have pets when we moved in."

The letter says anyone who has a pet must pay a one-off admin fee of �30 plus VAT for EACH animal or they will be required to "remove" them.

Resident and community campaigner Jamie Wake has started an online petition against the proposals, which so far has attracted more than 100 signatures. He said: "While I understand that there may be covenants in leases, this has been overlooked in the past with inconsistent permission given by Hallmark.

"It was bad enough having the stigma of living on Clampit Island and now it seems this pet tax will turn us into Kennel Island!"

Chris Reilly, head of Kennet Island Residents Association, said: "Residents see this as the latest attack on them living here and another money-making scheme."

Hallmark spokeswoman Pauline Southam said that all flat-dwellers are bound by their lease, which states: "Should you own an animal, bird or reptile, you must seek written permission of The Manager (Hallmark), which if given shall be deemed to be by way of licence revocable by the Manager at will." She said: "The licence is in place to facilitate the management of any pets that are not controlled or are causing a nuisance. The covenant does not stop residents keeping pets in their properties, unless the pets are causing a nuisance to other residents."

Hallmark, which is based in Lindisfarne Way and manages the estate on behalf of Thames Valley Housing and St James Homes, says small pets, such as goldfish and hamsters, do not need to be declared.

Linda Richards, from the Reading and District branch of animal welfare charity Cats Protection, said: "We are concerned that this may deter people from keeping or adopting pets.

"The charity is also concerned that more cats will be given up as a result, as people struggle in the current economic situation."