With the seeming increase in dog-related issues appearing on the nightly news, associations are faced with questions as to how and to what extent an association may regulate dogs kept in the community.
Unless there is a specific prohibition contained in the association’s declaration, an association may not restrict dogs or other pets from being kept in the community. However, an association may adopt reasonable rules relating to the use of the common areas by residents with dogs and requiring them to be responsible for the acts of their pets. Identified below are general guidelines as to what an association may and may not regulate in relation to pets.
An association may adopt reasonable rules that:
- Require owners to clean up after their dogs;
- Require owners to keep their dogs on leashes at all times while in the common elements;
- Require owners to prevent their barking dogs from becoming a nuisance;
- Permit owners to report loose dogs to the local animal control agency;
- In high rise condominiums, require dogs be walked and not permitted to sit on and relieve themselves in balcony areas.
Associations should not:
- Adopt a rule requiring the association to capture and remove loose dogs;
- Adopt assessments that charge a higher assessment to dog owners (However, dog owners may be charged a fee if an association is forced to clean-up after their pets on common areas.);
- Draft rules relating to size or breeds of dogs – but rather behavioral aspects;
- Adopt a rule in conflict with the Declaration.
To maintain a safe and pet-friendly community, associations should adopt a comprehensive pet policy that encourages and fosters responsible pet ownership. When adopting the pet policy, an association should have a clear purpose in mind. Likewise, each rule adopted by the association should be direct and crafted to achieve a specific goal. Rules should be given to all owners on a regular basis and made easily obtainable, so expectations are clear from the beginning and are continually reinforced.
When enforcing an association’s pet policy, the association should strive for voluntary compliance with courtesy reminders always being delivered first. If voluntary compliance cannot be obtained, the association can then move to fines and involvement with the local animal control authorities. Also, associations should consider placing dog waste stations strategically throughout the community to encourage owners to pick-up after their pets.
Additionally, associations should note that the Fair Housing Act requires service animals to be exempted from most pet restrictions. Associations should maintain lists of all service animals within the community to prevent enforcement actions on permitted animals.