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Pet Peeves Making & Enforcing Fair Pet Rules

Time was, if you said that a co-op or condo building was ‘going to the dogs,’ it was a bad thing. These days, however, that’s not always the case. According to the American Pet Products Association, the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey revealed that 70% of all U.S. households own at least one pet, equating to 90.5 million homes—a number that has expanded in the last year and a half during the coronavirus pandemic as people spending more time at home have purchased or adopted pets to keep them company and bring some joy to an otherwise very stressful, bleak time. This is why many condos and HOAs in South Florida and around the country are revisiting their rules regarding pets, with many deciding to make their communities a more welcoming atmosphere for animals.

But not everyone is for the pets. Non-pet-lovers cite noise, aggression, and mess as reasons for not wanting to share their building with their neighbors’ animals, and they feel that a duly elected board should have the right to limit pet ownership. In many communities, people share corridors and lobbies and have limited access to floors via the elevator, which brings still other issues into play. People may have animal allergies, or even phobias or trauma around animals—and forcing them to share an elevator with people and their pets can be a problem waiting to happen. 

So how to promote peace among the four-legged and the two-legged inhabitants of your building or association? The experts say it takes a combination of courtesy, responsibility, accommodation, and respect; not just on the part of pet owners, but of everyone who calls your community home. 

Pets and the Law

An issue that can complicate the implementation of some pet rules concerns residents who need companion animals for medical reasons. While no one would argue (indeed, it would be illegal) the right of a blind person to have a seeing-eye dog , or one trained to recognize the signs of seizure or stroke and alert medical personnel, other claims can seem questionable. Distinguishing a medically necessary companion animal from an ordinary pet can get very dicey—the definition of a ‘companion animal’ is so broad and far reaching, it can easily be abused.

Is a cockatoo or a potbellied pig really what the doctor ordered to fight depression or anxiety? Are each and every one of a resident’s eight cats a ‘medical necessity’? With the issue of therapy animals being a common media topic and with official-looking companion animal ‘certification’ documents easily downloadable from the web, it seems anyone can invent a plausible reason for why they absolutely must be allowed to keep an animal in their home. 

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