S.F. from outside of Connecticut writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
When we purchased our condo two years ago, we were assured that we could have two dogs. Six months later, due to a fabricated incident with someone else’s dog, the HOA informed the residents that they would have to once again enforce their one dog rule. However, those of us who had two dogs could keep two dogs until one died and then could not be replaced. Since then, tragically, both of our dogs have died. It has been our lifestyle for over 40 years to have two dogs. The bottom line: we will be getting one dog soon that will serve as my emotional support animal. I have a letter from my doctor indicating that this is a necessity for me. We are hoping that the ESA does not count as a pet and that we will be allowed to keep a second dog later. Or we can get the first dog as a pet and the second as an ESA. Please help us with this issue. We want to handle it the right way so that we can continue to live in our usual lifestyle. As a side note, our CCRs indicate that a rule can be amended by a majority written agreement. I am confident that at least 18 of the 24 owners would sign a petition that would allow us to keep both dogs.
Mister Condo replies:
S.F., Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are a hot button issue at condominiums and HOAs all across the country. One recent case involved an emotional support pig! The by-laws stated cats and dogs were the only animals allowed but this unit owner claimed her pet pig was an emotional support animal. Many associations have found themselves on the wrong side of enforcing their governance documents against unit owners who have taken them to court. If you can have your by-laws amended to allow two pets per unit, which seems to be the desire of the majority of unit owners, that would be the simplest solution. However, until such time as the states make new rulings regarding ESAs, this discussion will continue. There is little legal definition of what an ESA is. There is no standard; there is no certification; there is just a note from a medical professional stating that the animal provides emotional support and is, therefore, useful in providing support for the owner. More traditional support animals such as Seeing Eye dogs or seizure-sensing dogs have readily been accepted at community association for years. This trend towards ESAs is often seen as a way to skirt the association’s rules on how many and even what size animal can be housed within the association. Associations with one dog per unit rules have also found themselves on the wrong side of enforcement when unit owners such as you have claimed that their ESA does not count towards the rule. One dog is a pet; the other is an ESA. You may find yourself in court defending your actions but, based on what I am seeing, you would likely prevail. Of course, this is time consuming and may even be costly. Good luck!