How to Set Pet Policies for Your Community
A lot of the issues and problems that come up seem to have very little to do with pets – and much more to do with their owners! As long as your neighbor makes sure his pet is on its best behavior, your neighbor’s dog could be your best friend too.
Here is how you can help resolve any pet-related issues and make sure residents are respectful of the community.
Draft reasonable pet ordinancesApproximately 62% of US citizens are pet owners, according to the American Humane Society. That means you probably have furry friends living in your neighborhood. Your community should have rules that ensure pets and their owners remain good neighbors and don’t become a nuisance. A good example of such a rule would be to ensure that pet owner clean any waste deposited in common areas. This rule could be enforced with a fine is a resident doesn’t comply. The Board could also place restrictions or limitations on the type and/or size of animals that are allowed in the community.
Your community’s pet rules should be easily accessible and communicated clearly and frequently, in writing, to all residents. These rules must be in compliance with community by-laws and local regulations, be reasonable, serve a defined purpose (such as protecting the health, comfort and general safety of residents), and must be enforced in a friendly and fair way.
Encourage compliance with rulesOnce 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. And always consult with the association attorney or your local animal control officials for direction on handling complaints.
Consider restrictionsBecause your residents’ health and safety are of the upmost importance, your homeowner association documents usually stipulate the type, size and weight of pets allowed in the community. These restrictions can be challenging to enforce as they will require each animal to be closely monitored. Your community could limit the number of pets allowed in each home to ensure that living conditions for the community remain harmonious. Behavioral matters such as jumping, biting, fighting or aggressiveness could be grounds for refusing an animal’s inclusion. Breeds are also commonly taken into account – animals considered to be dangerous could be outlawed in the community.
Make exceptionsA community’s pet policies should be written and enforced for the well being of the community – but there are some exceptions associations must consider. For example, should your community decide to become a pet-free community, you can opt to “grandfather” existing pets in so the animals can remain with their families.
Your community must allow make exceptions for service animals for residents who require additional assistance. The Federal Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act protects those who need service animals. There are conditions of course - the disability must be proven and the animal’s function must be clearly defined. The homeowner association board should work closely with its attorney to ensure reasonable accommodations of approved service animals and to protect themselves against fraudulent service animal or emotional support animal claims.
Setting pet policies is a complex matter that may be a sensitive issue to fellow community members. To minimize related challenges, the association board must be firm and clear in their communications, must be well educated on the various legal ordinances stated above, and transparent when creating, updating and enforcing the community’s pet policies. The homeowners and residents should be made to understand 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.