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"My Pets Are My Family" - Pet Restrictions in Community Associations: Part 1

Pets are, and likely always will be, one of the most controversial topics for community associations. Many people have pets, and those that do often treat the animals as members of their family. The next several newsletters will contain tips for rule making and enforcement for pets on the premises.

There are several rules that are commonplace regarding pets on the property. As with all association rules, they are not one size fits all. Rules regarding pets must be tailored to the association’s needs to be effective.

1. Feces. A rule that an owner must immediately clean up after their pet when it is outdoors and defecates in the common elements or on the property is one of the most common rules regarding pets. This rule most often applies to dogs, however it can be extended to cats and other household pets that are outdoors.

2. Weight. This rule tends to be more common in a condominium association. A rule like this dictates that the size of the dog matters. A weight rule typically is worded to avoid all large breed dogs from being kept on the property. Often the rule will give a maximum weight, such as “no more than twenty-five pounds” when limiting the size of the dog.

3. Number. This type of rule limits the number of animals that can be kept in any one household. The main intent to this type of rule is to prevent animal hoarding. It is important to draft these types of rules properly. For instance, a rule that states an owner cannot have more than two household pets would mean that a person with a fish tank could not have more than two fish. When limiting numbers of animals, it is important to be specific in what you are limiting and to express the intent of the rule to be effective.

4. Prohibition. Some associations have restrictions that prohibit animals or species of animals, like dogs, all together. These associations are often marketed as “animal” or “dog” free associations. These restrictions are permitted when they are part of the recorded documents. Any person who buys property in those associations agrees to that recorded restriction when they purchase the property.

5. Leashes. Most associations do not want animals running around the property at large. This is where leash rules can be effective. A leash rule requires that any pet (even cats) be kept on a leash controlled by a responsible person when on the common elements, when outside the unit or home, or when outside of a fenced in area. Along with leashes, some associations have rules against staking or tying animals in the yard, especially if the animal is left unsupervised.

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