Bay State Condo Pet Conundrum

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J.A. from Massachusetts writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

I live in Massachusetts in a condo.  We have always been allowed dogs an able to take them anywhere on the property but get fined if you don’t pick up the feces.  Now they have demanded we all keep our dogs off the entire property and are only to walk them down the driveway to the street and that if I even let my dog pee on a telephone pole that is partly on the property I will be fined.  Is this legal that they can force us to take our dogs to the street and not provide us with any kind of dog area for the animals to do their business? It seems to me if they allow pets there should be some designated area?

Mister Condo replies:

Greetings from Connecticut, J.A.! I am not an attorney so I will give you only practical advice. For a true answer to your “Is this legal” question, I would ask that you speak with a qualified attorney in your area. You can find an excellent list at http://www.caine.org/_documents/ResourceDirectories/Attachment/ResourceDirectories_69.pdf which was recently published by the New England Chapter of the Community Associations Institute.

From a practical standpoint, your Board is likely interpreting your condo’s rules and regulations to state that allowing pets to be walked on the common grounds is not allowed. If that is the rule, then they are well within their rights to enforce the rule even if they have been lax on rule enforcement in the past. However, there is a big difference between Rover lifting a leg on a telephone pole and a giant mastiff defecating front and center of the common walkway. You state that the previously allowed activity was to allow for pet walking provided the owner picked up after the pet. That seems sensible to me. If you can convince your Board of the same, you may be able to have them revert to the old enforcement policy. However, if they don’t see it your way, you may need to mobilize with other pet owners to apply pressure to the Board and/or elect new Board members who see it your way. If neither of those options are feasible, you may have to live with the rules as they are. Unless your condo docs indicate that a pet walking area is provided, your association is not likely under any obligation to provide one even if your documents do allow for pets to be housed in the condos. Good luck!

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