Pet Policies in Boards and Associations From No Pets to Petopia

Although it may sometimes feel as if our pets have the run of the land, humans are still the masters of their own domains. In order to maintain this status quo—especially in a communal environment such as a condominium, cooperative or homeowners’ association—we need to establish a set of ground rules regarding pet care, lest animals get too rich a taste of freedom and the community will literally go to the dogs.

The approaches to pet policies undertaken by different communities vary wildly in this day and age, from high rises that offer luxurious spa treatments for pooches to security-state communities where they test fecal matter in effort to trace a dog back to an irresponsible owner. While these are clearly extremes, there remains debate as to what approach works best, and if there are any uniform best practices that can be applied from community to community. Atop that, the increasing acceptance of therapy dogs as an aid for various disabilities calls into question the validity of long-established pet policies in communities. Amid all of this hoopla, we sought to help communities ascertain what approach would work best for their boards and associations.

Keep Your Mutt Off My Lawn

While communities that have a zero-tolerance policy on pet ownership exist, they’re objectively in the minority, and quite possibly still on the decline. And even within these communities, there are often loopholes by which someone may still keep an animal on-site.

“Communities that do not permit pets still have exceptions that can be made,” says John Kadim, a property manager with Crowninshield Management Corporation in Peabody, Massachusetts. “Reasonable accommodations for individuals with service animals are almost always made. I personally have never denied a request, but I do know managers who have. These communities need to establish a set of rules and regulations for these kind of pets, similar to those rules for communities that do allow them. Both pets and their owners are required to abide by these rules as part of qualifying to live in a community with their service animal.”

The advent of the aforementioned therapy dog has created a sort of gray area in regard to the flexibility of pet-oriented regulations. “It’s very easy for someone to get a letter stating that they require a dog, and as such, it’s getting more common,” agrees Jim Stoller, president of The Building Group, a property management firm in Chicago, Illinois. “We’re seeing buildings that were formerly no dog/no pet properties now allowing animals which, in some cases, completely violates the association’s rules as they were written, and this is causing a higher degree of frustration from people who moved into those properties specifically because of the no-pet policies and want to limit pet ownership but feel powerless to do so.”

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