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, 39 percent of all U.S. households own at least one dog, and 33 percent own at least one cat. This is why many co-ops and condos in New Jersey have started to change their rules regarding pets and cultivate 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 high-rise 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—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 throws a wrench into the implementation of some pet rules concerns shareholders or owners who need companion animals for medical reasons. While no one would argue 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 a common media topic and 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.