THE BLOG
05/16/2013 06:06 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2013

Yea or Nay to Dogs in the HOA?

I was recently condo hunting in a nearby city. I found an awesome high-rise. It was a converted grain elevator with exposed concrete ceilings soaring to 20-feet, and walls of windows offering views of the harbor. As the realtor was walking me around, and we were going up and down in the elevator to view the various units, I noticed lots of residents with dogs coming in the elevators, walking through the halls, everywhere! It seemed like every resident had a dog. I made a comment to the agent and she said, "Yes! This building is very pet-friendly."

Ok, so I loved the building, but that just killed it for me. I know lots of people love dogs. I love dogs too. I grew up with dogs my entire childhood. But the thought of living in a condo building that allows dogs, even a building with 2-foot concrete walls and floors in-between the units, makes me cringe.

The most obvious reason I feel this way is because dogs bark. But first, I have to say, the problem isn't so much the dogs, as the dog owners. A well-trained dog can be a great neighbor. And as expressed by the realtor, having a dog-friendly condo can be a plus when re-selling one's unit. Dogs are popular!

However, few people properly train their dogs. I seriously think instead of giving dogs licenses, cities should license dog owners prior to allowing them to adopt or purchase a dog, to ensure this animal will be able to live in harmony with its owner's neighbors. All it takes is one bad dog to ruin what could be a functionally pet-friendly building or community.

Of course, I need to mention that anyone needing a service animal is perfectly within their rights to have a service dog, or, due to recent modifications to the ADAs regulations on service animals, a miniature horse. Again, it all goes back to properly training whatever animal the person has. Service animals are well trained, and the ADA even states that the "service animal must be under control."

Again, it goes back to the animal's owner, so this is a resident issue, not an animal issue. And everyone knows, where there are rules, there are those who will break them.

The other major problem with dogs is that they need to be picked up after. When residents don't scoop the poop, it's an obvious problem, and probably every HOA in the country has rules about this. But even when the poop is scooped, it still leaves germs, and possibly parasites, on the grass or pavement. And what about the urine? No one cleans that. Who wants their child to be playing in a common area where a dog has defecated or urinated? Or who wants to walk on grass that has just been fouled, then walk into their own home or get in their car?

This is where the situation gets muddled. An HOA can have a dog park or other pooping area. Now the issues are, will the residents abide and only use this area to walk their dogs (probably not); and will the non pet-owners complain that part of their dues goes toward the cost of owning and maintaining this area (probably)? A dispute is born!

Of course there are numerous arguments for allowing dogs. One is that most people want the option of having a dog, even if they don't currently have one, for home resale or rental purposes. This is especially true in high-rises, or smaller condos where potential buyers often live alone, or are possibly a couple living alone without children. Many of these people could not imagine living without a dog for companionship. Hence, selling a unit in such a building could be tough.

Another argument is that those who do not live in HOAs are free to have pretty much whatever pets they want, so why should "our neighborhood" be any different? People buy into HOAs because they don't want to deal with certain issues. For instance, if you live in a townhome community, you usually don't need to worry about such things as landscaping, lawn mowing, trash removal, tree pruning, etc. These are pluses. Well, along with these big pluses is an added bonus of rules & regulations. These rules protect residents from having to confront a neighbor who possibly fails to pick up the poop. The rules & regulations enforce good dog-owner behavior. Don't want to clean up after your dog? Well in most states you can receive a fine for that. So for the HOA resident, having a dog as a neighbor is probably easier than for those living in a non-HOA neighborhood.

Many building managers will tell you that they would prefer not to allow dogs in their managed properties. Of course, it is easier not to have dogs than to deal with the issues that go along with allowing them. It's always easier to avoid problems with or between residents. However HOAs are homes, neighborhoods and communities. These are places where people live. So the rules need to both benefit and support the lifestyle of those who live there. To allow or not to allow dogs will remain a much-debated issue because of human, not dog, nature. Dogs want to please their owners. The dilemma is for the owners to want to be pleasing to their neighbors.

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