T.C. from Maryland writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I have lived in my condo community for almost 2 years, and I have had 2 dogs the entire time. A Cocker Spaniel and a Maltese Poodle mix. There are rules in my county, Montgomery County, MD which state you have to pick up after your dog. I have followed this rule from Day 1. There are other dog owners in the community who have not followed this rule. It has bothered me as well, however, I never see them not pick up and cannot report which owner is being negligent. I came home one day and there was a sign next to our mailbox area, which says, “No pets are allowed on the grass or in the common areas. Dog waste transmits disease. Walk your pets off the property. Report owners who fail to cleanup after their pets to Montgomery County Animal Control.” I think this goes against some kind of law or rule. It is just like they woke up and decided to make rules to fit a part of the population in the community, not everyone. Not walk on the grass? That means in the entire community? What am I missing? Why is it just because they put up a sign I have to follow it? The rule is stupid, unfair and ridiculous. There is an area behind our building where my dogs run all the time. It is all grass. I truly believe they are trying to make me move or others who have dogs. Dog owners are being targeted in this instance. Is there anything I can do? Is there any type of law that I can look up so I can defend my fellow dog owners and myself? Thank you.
Mister Condo replies:
T.C., I am sorry that you and many of your fellow unit owners are now finding it difficult to maintain your dog-walking areas within your condominium association common grounds. The short answer to your question has less to do with local laws and everything to do with your own condominium governance documents and any rules adopted by the Board to eliminate the pet waste on property that is a problem for all unit owners. City and state laws trump your governance documents on matters of law but it would appear that your Board is implementing rules that are stricter than even the laws, which they are well within their rights to do. However, if these rules do not appear in your original condo docs, it is important that they were introduced, voted upon, and implemented in proper order for them to be enforceable. For purposes of this discussion, let’s assume that they were.
Directors are the democratically elected representatives of the unit owners of your condominium. They are charged with handling the business of the association, which includes making and enforcing rules about keeping the property clean and safe. It is possible that they have been too zealous in their efforts to curb the dog waste problem but unless you and your fellow dog-owning unit owners complain and ask for a reversal of the new rules, you will either have to comply or face notices and/or fines for violating the rules. Perhaps, you could suggest the Board install a designated dog walking area or dog run where the resident pooches could take care of their business? Or, you could ask the Board to remove the new rules but install video surveillance equipment to easily spot offenders who are not properly cleaning up after their pets. Some associations have gone as far as DNA testing of dog waste to catch the culprits. That may sound extreme but it leaves no margin for a unit owner to claim it wasn’t their dog when the DNA is a match. My advice is to speak with fellow dog owners and approach the Board with a collective solution. Good luck to you and your fellow dog-owning residents!