When I mentioned the problem to our board president, he said the board had given the new owner permission to have a third dog after he assured her that they were "good" neighbors and the dog was elderly.
I feel that we should all honor the established rules of our association because it protects the quality of life for all of us. Do we have any legal recourse? What is the best approach for solving the problem? We have already contacted the dog owner a couple of times, but the problem continues.
A: Is it the extra dog that's the problem or the owner? We're not sure that the number of dogs is the issue but rather the dog owner and his sense of entitlement.
The association has the obligation to enforce the rules fairly and uniformly. But the association also has the right to establish waivers and determine how those rules are enforced for the benefit of all unit owners. So while the rules may say that having two dogs is the maximum, we don’t know if your association’s rules allow for a waiver of that rule or what discretion the association has in enforcing that rule. It’s a good question, but we think that the real issue has to do with the unit owner.
Say the unit owner had two dogs but still didn’t pick up after them. We doubt your letter to us would be much different. The question is whether the association will enforce the rule relating to owners that fail to pick up after their pets. On that issue, we think the association should pass a rule requiring homeowners to clean up after their pets, make sure their pets are well trained, make sure the pets are not disruptive or dangerous and that they are not a disturbance or a nuisance.
Once they’ve made the rules, the association should take the time to enforce them — otherwise, what would be the point? It’s not unusual to find associations that permit pets also to have owner and pet problems. Again, while the pets could be the problem, the source of the problem frequently is the owner who can’t train their pet, won’t pick up after their pet, doesn’t care about their neighbors as much as they care about their pets, and certainly doesn’t care about how the behavior and actions of their pet affect those neighbors. It’s unfortunate all around.
In some associations, you have strict rules (and enforcement) relating to pets. On a first offense, the infraction may be $25; on the second, the fee goes to $100; and on a third infraction, the fine rises again, to $250, and so on. In associations where people like pets but know that a bad pet can be bad for everyone, these fines and their enforcement go a long way toward making sure a homeowner keeps their pet in line.
Talk to the association president again. This time, you shouldn’t focus on the number of pets but, rather, on the problems this owner’s pets are causing to the property. We hope the president takes your complaint to heart and works to solve the situation. If not, you may need to organize a petition demanding that the board take action or run for the board yourself to make change happen.
And if all those fail, and you can’t stand living with someone who doesn’t care that their pets continually make a mess, move. Because in the end, life’s too short.