Cats and Dogs... A Manager's Tale

There is an old saying that it's raining cats and dogs. Well, this saying (or so I'm told) came from days of yesteryear when roofs were made of straw and the steep angle required for good run-off brought the eve way down - fairly close to the ground. The cats and dogs weren't allowed in the house in those days, let alone in the bed as present-day pampered pets prefer. So they, the dogs and cats that is, would make a snug place to sleep within the straw roof. The heat from the fire inside kept the roof warm in winter and the night air made the straw cooler in summer. All in all, the roof was a nice place for an animal to nap. When it rained heavily (a sprinkle was only a temporary inconvenience), these animals would quickly drop down from the roof to find dryer shelter. Thus, when it really rained heavily, it was referred to as raining cats and dogs.

Pet Complaints

It seems that we are raining cats and dogs in America 's community associations, too. As a manager, a great number of my complaint calls have to do with pets in some way or another. Either they are noisy, nasty, off-leash, dirty or simply not allowed to be there at all according to the governing documents. Dog feces is another big issue. It has caused feuds to break out among otherwise reasonable people, sort of a pistols at dawn kind of thing. One association I managed actually required a motion before the board to DNA test all of the dogs in the association so that the offending pup could be tied to the poop and banished from the community. Habeas Poopus, I guess. Of course, when the board found out the price tag (and that a special assessment would be required), the idea was quickly dropped.

A Bit of Common Sense

As silly and as carried away as that sounds, it really did happen and it really does point out that pets can be a real problem in creating and maintaining harmonious association living. Most of the pet-related problems are resolved by exercising a bit of common sense. Here's a suggestion. How about trying the four K's?

K-eep your cat indoors.

K-eep your dog on a leash.

K-eep pets reasonably quiet so they don't disturb your neighbors.

K-lean up after your animals. (OK so I cheated a little on that last K.)

Non-enforcement Issues

Of course, this doesn't address the problem of having a pet when the association's governing documents clearly state that you can't - - especially when the board president has two less than friendly Dobermans. Let me say that I am not an attorney, so the next paragraph has no legal basis of authority whatsoever.

But many associations inadvertently have fallen into a proliferation of pets simply by non-enforcement of existing regulations. This situation, as I understand it (at least in Florida), can be corrected with the least resistance by enforcing the regulation AS OF NOW (the moment a board votes to do so) and declaring that all current four legged residents are grandfathered in. Now, this doesn't grandfather the ability for a unit owner to always own a pet just to keep the one that is already there until it goes to its reward in that great kennel in the sky.

The Poodle That Lived for 30 Years

Now I have another brief but true story. This is about the poodle that lived for thirty years. The dog was grandfathered in for the rest of its life when the association decided to crack down on pet regulations. It was a quiet and friendly pooch. However, at some point people began to notice that even a few board members had passed away since that ruling but that the poodle was still alive. Hummm. Well, it seems that whenever the current poodle got sickly, the wily owner would haunt the dog rescue centers until he found another poodle that looked exactly the same and voila! another miraculous recovery. It was thirty years before anyone caught on to his exchange of poodles over time.

Before I leave the legal arena (where I am not supposed to be anyway), there is the whole challenge of companion pets the Americans with Disabilities Act defines this rather broadly. No longer restricted to seeing eye dogs, a pet can be prescribed by a physician to a patient as relief from depression, among other ailments. Based upon federal law, this trumps association regulations and I have seen pets allowed under these circumstances - even in an otherwise very restrictive building.

Moving right along...

One regulation that always amused me was the limit on the weight of the dog. Frequently we see 25 pounds or less. What are they thinking? I can see the memo now:

Dear Unit Owner and fellow dog lover: On Monday, we will hold our yearly meeting where we will weigh all the dogs. Have them lined up at noon for the weigh in and new certifications. Any dog not answering this official summons will be assumed to be overweight and thus banished from all association property until next years' weigh-in.

I have a vision of poor Fido, who has been hitting the ol' food bowl a bit much of late and is now a hefty but horrifying 26 pounds. Mama has him sweating it off in the clubhouse sauna and on a crash exercise program for weeks before weigh-in day.

Isn't it better to have a regulation that states that the association will allow small dogs of a certain height - wherein this size classification must be certified by a vet and which newly arriving dogs are approved by the board on a case-by-case basis? I also feel that yearly vet certification to assure that the pet is licensed and has its necessary vaccinations, is a good idea. It is required at the place where I board my dog, so why not where I live as well?

Well that's it. These are my thoughts on Cats and Dogs and homeowners associations.

The truth is that the world is divided into pet owners and everyone else. Those without pets will just never understand why the other group wants an animal living with them. So take a look at your association's governing documents and see where you stand. As for me, I'll be refereeing those occasional disputes among neighbors and their furry friends as more and more Americans join the ranks of adoptive animal owners.

Source: Association Times
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