This article originally appeared in the May 2023 edition of Quorum.
It seems that the number of pets has multiplied over the pandemic, with people getting all kinds of animals to keep them company (and sane). Regulating pets within communities has always been the norm, though the regulations themselves may evolve and adapt to meet new needs and circumstances.
We have seen these top 8 trends in pet policies over the years, each of which is subject to and contingent upon the specific authorities and restrictions in your community’s governing documents:
- The Notorious P.i.t.b.u.l.l. There was a time when pet policies prohibited certain dog breeds, most infamously pit bulls and terriers. This was in large part due to a Maryland case that identified pit bulls and cross-bred pit bulls as inherently dangerous based solely on their breed. Maryland law has since changed to hold all dog owners strictly liable for their dog’s behavior irrespective of their breed, unless the owner can prove that they neither knew nor should have known that their dog had vicious or dangerous propensities. Many Maryland pet policies no longer prohibit specific dog breeds, given this change in law.
- Size Matters. While we all may agree that pets are beautiful no matter their size, we continue to see weight limits on pets. Weight limits are particularly helpful in condominium buildings where, for example, a 120 lbs. Great Dane may not be the best fit. Ironically, some of the largest dog breeds may actually make the best small-dwelling pets, while some of the smaller breeds, generally speaking, have higher energy and higher odds of behaving aggressively.
- Two’s a Company, Three’s a Crowd. Though some of us may want a litter of dogs, a clowder of cats, or a flock of parrots, we continue to see limits on the number of pets we can keep. A restriction on the number of pets is primarily helpful to control nuisance-related complaints.
- You’re Not My Type. We also continue to see restrictions on the types of pets that may be kept, particularly reptiles and farm animals. This is no surprise, as most people may not want a flock of roosters or a large den of snakes in their proximity.
- Control Yourself. Your pets may run wild in your home, but once they are in shared areas, then they must behave. Most pet policies continue to require that pets be under your immediate control or on a leash while on common areas.
- Don’t be Annoying. Incessant barking? Loud squawks? Smelly cats? Alas, pet rules are increasingly prohibiting pets that are a source of nuisance or annoyance to others – whether by smell or sound.
- What a Waste. Pet policies continue to hold pet owners accountable for picking-up and properly disposing of their pet’s waste. Some policies even require that pets not be fed on shared areas to avoid a mess.
- You Break, You Pay. Pets are not always easy to control. Sometimes, they may defecate on common area carpeting, scratch the lobby couch, or even ruin some freshly planted landscaping. More and more, pet policies are requiring that pet owners reimburse associations for damages caused by their pets.
In addition to your pet policy, there may be state or county laws that regulate animals in your community. Contact your community associations attorney to determine what authorities you have under your governing documents and by law to regulate pets in your community.
Nura Rafati is a community associations attorney at Lerch, Early & Brewer. For more information, contact her at 301-657-0730 or [email protected].