Some apartment managers, condos and homeowner associations turn to pet restrictions because some pet-owning residents don't respect their neighbors. The following tips and recommendations can be shared with property managers and condo/homeowner association members to encourage them to adopt a responsible pet owner approach vs. pet restrictions and bans.
* Explain the wisdom of finding solutions that target irresponsible and unneighborly pet owner behavior -- instead of focusing on dogs. Owners should be held responsible for properly managing, training and supervising their pets. Blaming the individual animal or type of animal does not stop the problem. After all, dogs of any size, age and breed can be the subject of complaints.
* Have resource lists on hand that suggest books and trainers who can help solve problems such as barking and separation anxiety that lead to neighbors complaints. (PAW can supply reading and other lists. Also see PAW's website at: www.paw-rescue.org)
* Harness peer pressure. Encourage responsible pet-owning residents to set good examples as well as share advice in a nonconfrontational manner with pet owners who don't exercise responsibility. For example, responsible pet owners and their communities can make bags available in "walking areas" to encourage the picking up of waste matter. Another approach might be a prominent notice in the community newsletter detailing a problem; for example: "On Monday, May 5, residents noticed a young Dalmatian with a red collar running loose. Is this your pet? Please be aware that county laws and community rules required that dog owners keep their dogs on a leash outside."
* Make sure that tenants and visitors know the community rules. Many landlords and non-resident owners in condo complexes fail to fully inform tenants about community rules such as pet policies. Make sure that everyone is aware of the rules and covenants of your association or building, and stress the need to inform tenants as well as visitors. Residents should be responsible for the behavior of their guests -- and pets brought by their guests.
* Distribute information about responsible pet ownership. Look for articles about pet safety and health, and circulate them in the community. Run a pet column in the community newsletter. Post articles in community areas. Include rules and articles in welcome packets given to newcomers. Subjects to cover include keeping pets on leash and cleaning up. List basic rules in every edition of the community newsletter. In addition, communities can arrange for a free Responsible Pet Ownership education session presented by PAW volunteers in the Washington-Baltimore area.
* Create reasonable and enforceable policies. People don't take policies seriously if they see neighbors violating them repeatedly. On the other hand, enact only rules that it clearly makes sense to enforce, such as picking up waste matter and keeping pets on leash outdoors. Weight and size limits, for example, typically prove hard to enforce and not effective in establishing order in a housing development; for example, a small hyper dog can cause more problems than a large, calm, mature dog.
* Property managers can develop a "pet agreement" for pet-owning residents to sign. Deposits should be kept reasonable and refundable, in order to encourage responsible dog ownership and proper care of the rental unit. Rental and other property managers can request a "pet resume" from prospective residents...a copy of the dog's medical records to ensure that the dog is spayed/neutered and has up-to-date vaccinations...as well as references from past landlords and neighbors, dog obedience trainers and veterinarians.
* For concerns and problems related to dogs repeatedly running off-leash and those displaying aggression to people, neighbors should document the facts and call the local animal control department. It can help to have several neighbors report their observations to animal control.
* Advise non-pet-owning neighbors how to more effectively address problems. For example, some residents focus complaints on pet owners who they see picking up after their pets -- instead of confronting less respectful pet owners who allow their pets to run loose and leave messes. In one local neighborhood, a few disgruntled residents tossed mothballs on lawns as a means of reducing the wandering-pet problem. Residents can get together and come up with more effective, and kinder, solutions.
* Encourage disgruntled residents to first try to speak in person with the offending pet owners. Good communication can lead to voluntary compliance and a more neighborly neighborhood.
* On a related note, declawing is not a real solution for feline behavioral problems. There are more effective and humane alternatives. PAW can provide an article on these alternatives upon request.
Note: these tips can be use when discussing changes in pet policies with landlords, property managers, and community association boards.