As I walk my dog around the grounds of my condominium building, the melting snow reveals a springtime tradition; mounds of dog waste, thawing on sidewalks and lawns. As I carefully guide my dog around these seasonal hazards, I am reminded of the minefield of pet rules that are part of so many condominium communities.
The most common version of a condominium corporation’s pet rule grants the board of directors the discretion, or perhaps the “absolute discretion”, to deem a pet to be a nuisance. Nuisance rules are meant to address the behavioural problems of both pets and pet owners alike. Incessant barking, aggression, and fouling the common elements are all examples of potential nuisance.
Once a pet has been deemed to be a nuisance, the board may require that the pet be permanently removed from the owner's unit. Does this mean that the board can demand the removal any pet whenever it wants? No, it doesn’t, because the discretion that is afforded to the board is not a license to act capriciously. How can a board ensure that the exercise of its discretion is within these limits?
In a previous blog, I discussed how a board of directors could protect its decisions from interference from the courts, and in particular, how a good decision is:
- investigated, researched, or otherwise informed;
- selected from a range of reasonable alternatives;
- formalized by a vote of the board;
- achieving a valid purpose or objective; and,
- made in the best interest of the condominium corporation.
Applying these characteristics to a pet rule, a board would be wise to:
- develop and apply a consistent policy that sets out the criteria for when a pet will be deemed to be a nuisance;
- wherever possible, have an independent third party verify complaints; and,
- open a dialogue with the pet’s owner, informing the owner of the nature of the complaints (but not the identity of complainants), and warn the owner that the status quo is not acceptable.
When the matter comes down to a vote of the board, the preamble to the proposed resolution should describe the precise nature of the problem, and the previous unsuccessful attempts to try and solve the problem.
Please share your thoughts on enforcing pet rules in the comments section below.