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how to set pet policies for your community

Pet policies in your community can be quite variable. Some of these rules and policies that can be put into place include limit the number of pets someone has in their condo, or the breed and size of the pet, the type of pet they own, and so on.
If your condo is pet-friendly, the Board must determine the best way to keep residents satisfied with the policies, but at the same time keep the condo in order with the right boundaries, especially for those who do not own pets.
The way the Board should go about making these policies is by understanding that issues are often not caused by the pets themselves, but by the residents. This includes being negligent in not picking up after their pets and not having them properly trained once outside. Here are some ways that your property management company can go about making effective pet policies and how to enforce them.
If you’re a homeowner with a pet, read how you can do your part in keeping the peace in your community.

Pet policies need to be reasonable:

A 2018 Statista survey of 3,026 residents revealed that there were 8.2 million pet dogs and 8.3 million pet cats in Canadian households. This estimated total equals 16.5 million pets. By knowing this number, if your condo is a pet-friendly zone, you are sure to be seeing some furry animals roaming around in your community. This is exactly why rules and policies need to be created. If there were none in place, residents could go around leaving their pets to cause potential damage to the property and not face any consequences. Neighbours without pets would also find themselves uncomfortable and upset with their living situation, causing numerous potential complaints!  Thus, a very reasonable first rule would be having pet owners pick up after their pets when going on a walk. If they fail to comply, they can face a warning as well as a fine. Boards could go farther and enforce a leash policy while on property.
Another policy to look into is the type of pets that can be allowed in common areas, or even in the resident’s property as well. Do you really want a massive snake or a pot-bellied pig as part of your multi-family neighbourhood?
New or updated policies should be communicated to residents continuously, whether it is with signage around the building, in paper, or in person. They should be clear in language and be enforced in a fair and friendly way, complying with local regulations and by-laws and have a defined purpose. Often, the purpose is to protect residents in terms of their comfort, health, and overall safety. recommend strategies on how to best create a community newsletter.

Encourage resident compliance with policies:

Once your community’s pet rules are in place, it is important to get residents to comply. You may have included a regulation that says dogs must be leashed and controlled when on common property, but some pet owners still let their dogs run free. The pet policy must be communicated again to those who do not comply and sanctions imposed if they do not.
The Board should talk with the community and ask their opinion on the regulations. Another suggestion is to distribute a survey to see what the owners think about the policy that is in place and how it is enforced. Perhaps a pet committee could be formed made up of both pet owners and pet free owners to review and discuss the policy and its enforcement with the goal of finding a solution that satisfies everyone. When determining the best way to handle complaints, the local animal bylaw officials or the corporation’s legal advisor are also valuable resources.

Once these rules are set in the community, you must now get your residents to get on board and comply with them. Some residents may choose to ignore the policies or very loosely follow the rules. Depending on the policy, you can choose to talk to this resident in person so they understand the rule will be strictly enforced. This way, you know you have clearly stated the rule in person. Further, consistent enforcement means that more residents will follow the rules, as turning a blind eye will only encourage residents to be less compliant.

Pet rule enforcement:

For the most part, you’ll see that most residents will abide by the rules with no issues at all. They understand that as part of the community, they need to play their role and take care after their pet. However, you must be prepared for those particular residents who do not follow the rules whatsoever, even after multiple warnings. While it is difficult, if you have discussed this matter at hand with the pet-owner, and other neighbours are getting frustrated as well, you will need to play your part and move onto the next step of enforcement. Providing them with a fine is a logical next step. Depending on their reaction to this, you must give them a final warning before you step in and use the bylaws in place to evict their pet for non-compliance. This shows there is a very fine line to other neighbours with pets, and that drastic measures can be taken for non-compliance. If you are unsure if your bylaws support this, consult your legal advisor before taking action.

Restrictions to consider:

Considering the health and safety of all residents is the number one priority when it comes to pets. The condominium bylaws will often state what type and size of pets are allows. Boards will usually require an owner to submit an application that includes this information along with proof of licensing and a recent picture. If problem behaviours such as biting, fighting or jumping are exhibited, this is something that could be considered when determining if the resident can live in the condo with their pet. The restrictions a multi-family neighborhood chooses are important to protect all members and promote harmony within the community.

There will be exceptions:.

An important exception is the use of service dogs by persons with disabilities. The Service Dogs Act provides Albertans with disabilities, who use qualified service dogs, the right of access to public places. This includes places of lodging. The disability must be proven and the dog’s role clearly defined.

The condominium Board should work closely with their legal team to ensure reasonable accommodations of approved service animals. There may also cases of fraudulent service animal or emotional support animal claims from which they will need to protect the community.  

After reading this article, it may seem that creating pet policies can be exhaustive, but when taking into consideration problems that could occur if these bylaws or policies weren’t in place is enough motivation to have proper protocol. Be firm and deliver clear communication, and ensure that residents have the necessary education about what to expect when joining your condo.
Pet regulations are in the best interest of the safety and well-being of all residents; this should always be emphasized to the community. We provide other basic responsibilities residents should always follow here. To learn more about how to handle pet rules and regulations, contact FirstService Residential, Alberta’s leading residential property management company.

Wednesday July 15, 2020