Setting Pet Policies for Your Community

Posted on Monday May 25, 2015



Many of the issues and problems that arise have very little to do with the pets and much more to do with their owners. As long as your neighbor makes sure his pet is on its best behavior, your neighbors’ dog could be your best friend too. Here are some helpful ways to help resolve any pet-related issues and ensure residents are respectful of the community.
 
Draft reasonable pet ordinances
 
Approximately 62 percent of U.S. citizens are pet owners, according to the American Humane Society. With this statistic, you can almost bet you’ve got furry friends living in your neighborhood. Having rules set in place will ensure pets and their owners remain good neighbors and don’t become a nuisance. An example of a rule that every community could put in place would be to state that an animal’s owner must clean any waste deposited in common areas, and refusal to do so would result in a fine.  The community association board should also place restrictions or limitations on the types of animals that are allowed in the community.
 
Any regulations should be easily accessible, communicated clearly and frequently in writing to all residents, be in compliance with community by-laws/local regulations, serve a defined purpose (such as protecting the health, comfort and general safety of residents), be reasonable, and be enforced in a friendly and fair way.
 
Encourage compliance with rules
 
Once you have drafted or updated your community’s pet regulations, the next step is getting residents to comply. One regulation that is in place may state that dogs must be on leashes, but there may be a resident or two who always lets their dog run free. The board can create and distribute a survey to see how the community feels about the pet policies and their enforcement. This will alleviate any unidentified issues that may occur at the property.  Some residents may even form a pet committee comprised of pet owners and non-pet owners so that regulations can be reviewed, discussed, and enforced in a way that satisfies all.
 
It’s important to communicate the rules to all residents either as reinforcement or to bring them up to speed so that all community members are compliant with the policies. It’s always a good idea for community association board members should talk with residents to get their opinions.
 
When it comes to how complaint procedures are handled, you may consult with the association attorney or your local animal control officials to ensure your process is similar to theirs.
 
Consider restrictions
Your residents’ health and safety are of the upmost importance, so the homeowner association documents will usually stipulate the kind and size of animals allowed. Restrictions are often made according to the size and weight of pets that are permitted within the community. Though this restriction can be tough to enforce, it will require each animal to be closely monitored. Your community could also consider a limit on the number of animals allowed within each home to help ensure that living conditions for the community remain harmonious. Breeds are also commonly taken into account, and animals considered to be dangerous could be outlawed in the community. Even behavioral matters such as jumping, biting, fighting or aggressiveness could be grounds for refusing an animal’s inclusion.
 
Make exceptions
Any rules and regulations regarding animals should be written and enforced for the well being of the community, but there are some exceptions association boards must consider. Lets say your community’s board has decided to become a no-pet community, but you have residents who already have existing pets. There is the option to  “grandfather” them in so that the animal can remain with its family. With this option, the updated regulations must be well communicated to any new residents in order to avoid misunderstandings and exceptions to the rule. 
 
There is also the matter of service animals for residents who might require additional assistance. The Federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act protects those who have and need service animals, provided the disability can be proven and the animal’s function is clearly defined. The homeowner association board should work closely with the association’s attorney to ensure reasonable accommodations of approved service animals and to learn how to protect themselves against fraudulent service animal or emotional support animal claims.  
 
There is a lot to consider when it comes to pet policies within a community. It is a complex matter and may be a sensitive issue to fellow community members. In these cases, the association board must be firm and clear in their communications, well educated on the various legal ordinances stated above, and transparent when creating, updating and enforcing the community’s governing pet policies. It should always be emphasized to the community that pet regulations are in the best interest of the safety and well being of all residents. For more information on how to handle pet rules and regulations, contact FirstService Residential, Florida's leading residential property management company.

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