The three greatest bones of contention within a homeowner association are pets, parking and people. Pets are particularly irksome because to non-pet owners they're animals, but to the owners they're family. These opposing views are a setup for conflict.

In the past, some HOAs have tried to dodge the problem altogether by banning pets of all kinds. But pet ownership is considered such a basic right, that bans inevitably create willful violations. Then there are the exceptions which every HOA must make for "service" pets. While this used to mean seeing eye dogs, there is now a whole range of acceptable "services" that qualify a pet including (get ready) companionship.

Since pets are such an integral part of human existence, the HOA should find a reasonable middle ground policy.

Here are some basic provisions to work into your policy:

  • Only dogs, cats, birds or other traditional household pets are permitted.
  • No animal shall be kept or bred for commercial purposes.
  • Pets may not exceed ____ pounds when fully grown. Use American Kennel Club standards to avoid the "big boned" defense.
  • Total number of pets and offspring per residence is limited to ____.
  • All pets shall be registered and inoculated as required by local law.
  • No pets are permitted to run at large.
  • All pets must be under the owner's physical control (by leash or otherwise) when in the common area (This includes cats).
  • Pet damage is the responsibility of the owner. Damage to common area will be repaired by the HOA and repair costs billed to the resident (or the unit owner if the pet owner is a renter).
  • Owners must pick up and dispose of all pet litter immediately.
  • Any pet that disturbs the neighbors, is allowed to run freely, or is aggressive or destructive to association property is subject to permanent removal from the property. In such case, the pet owner (or the unit owner if the pet owner is a renter) will be given notice to remove the pet from the property within ___ days. If the pet is not removed by the deadline, a fine of $___ per day will be chargeable to unit owner's account and subject to normal collection procedures established by the association.

Procedure for Filing Complaints:

If a pet is being offensive, offended party should first discuss the issue with the pet owner and request correction. If the condition persists, submit a written request for relief to the Board explaining the offense, time and place. As with any rule, the Board needs to provide for give and take.

For example, since animals do wander, some of the pet complaints could originate from pets of neighboring properties. If the issue involves a resident animal, be sensitive but firm. Criticizing a pet is like criticizing someone's child. It must be done tactfully. Try not to be too "dog-matic" or you may run "a fowl" with "cat-astrophic" results (Ouch!).

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