An issue that arises frequently in condominium associations, and to a lesser extent homeowner associations, in Florida is the presence of pets and the association’s ability to place rules on their presence in communities. One specific question is whether an association may impose restrictions as to the type of breed of domestic animals, typically as to dogs.
The answer is generally “yes”. Condominium associations have been found to have power to adopt association rules that restrict owners and renters from having certain breeds of dogs. Some associations restrict dogs that are known for being aggressive such as Pit bull or Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Huskys, Malamutes, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows, Great Danes, St. Bernards, or Wolf mixes. This is generally a result of safety concerns for members and other pets in the community. Such breed restrictions have been found to be reasonable and upheld in arbitration decisions rendered by the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares, and Cooperatives (“Division”) of the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (“DBPR”). While HOA pet disputes are not subject to arbitration with the Division, the findings of an arbitrator on a matter that very closely mirror issues faced by HOAs will be found to be very persuasive to a trial court judge.
If the restriction is in the form of a rule promulgated by the Board, the Board must ensure that rulemaking authority exists and that such restrictions are uniformly applied to all owners in an unbiased manner. While a declaration amendment is preferred given the strong presumption of validity as a result of a membership vote on the proposed change, rules promulgated by the Board have been upheld as proper provided that (1) authority exists to adopt the rule, and (2) the rule does not conflict with a provision in the declaration of condominium (declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions). Of course, if the Board chooses to attempt to restrict a breed that is not known for being dangerous then a reasonable explanation for its adoption will be required for it to be upheld.
Associations are encouraged to seek advice of counsel to determine the ability to impose restrictions on pet breeds as well as the applicability of any new restrictions as to owners already with pets.
Stay tuned for further discussion of breed restriction issues when faced with a request for a service or support animal.