Q&A: Dog Size a Weighty Issue

My condo association has a bylaw that limits the size and number of pets. About a year ago, a person moved in with a large puppy that has grown to be a very large dog. I reported it to the management and they did some investigating—then issued a request to the owner to bring in a veterinarian certification as to the weight of the dog. I went to a board meeting and asked what the status was regarding the dog. Their answer was that they can do nothing. I asked why and their answer was: "If we try to fine the person, the judge will throw it out and we don't want to waste the money." The management person agreed and all the board nodded its assent! Is it unreasonable for me to expect them to enforce the rules? Do I have any recourse?

—Upset about Overweight Pooch

“Pet restrictions imposed by condominium associations have been a sensitive topic of discussion for many years,” says David R. Dahan, a shareholder attorney at the law firm of Parker McCay in Mount Laurel. “Generally speaking, condominium associations have the right to adopt reasonable restrictions that are rationally related to the purpose sought to be achieved.Pet restrictions that limit the size and number of pets are not uncommon in New Jersey.Such restrictions can be adopted for a number of reasons including, but not limited to, safety and protecting property.In my experience, such pet restrictions are generally enforceable.

“However, there are a number of possible exceptions that should be considered. For example, under certain state and federal laws, disabled people may be entitled to maintain certain pets.One very common example is seeing-eye-dogs for the blind.An exception could also be a person’s pet being “grandfathered in” if a person owned a pet prior to the adoption of the restriction.Putting aside whether any possible exceptions apply, your condominium association should consider taking action to enforce the restriction.If it does not, it runs the risk of not being able to enforce that restriction in the future. Of course, a condominium association’s ability to be successful will depend on the particular wording of the restriction and being able to prove a violation.

“If your condominium association continues to refuse to enforce the restriction, you have the right to request Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which the condominium association is obligated to provide pursuant to statute. It is possible that pursuant to Alternative Dispute Resolution, you may be able to persuade the association to take action to enforce the restriction. Keep in mind, it is common for the governing documents of an association to include the right to recover attorney’s fees and costs in connection with a violation and action to enforce. If the condominium association fails to take such action, you may wish to consult a lawyer about taking legal action in court against the association.”    n

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