Pets or Pests? Dealing With Companion Animals

Whether they consider themselves dog people, cat people, or exotic bird people, millions of condo residents in Florida own companion animals. Florida residents may love their furry family members but not all association boards and managers are quite as enthused about pets.

That's because with pets, can come problems, especially for those living in tight multifamily spaces. It can be difficult for condo boards and management to balance residents’ rights to keep companion animals against the impact those animals may have on value, maintenance and community relations. And it's not just a matter of personal preference; there are laws in place protecting the rights of residents, and coupled with the rules and regulations that boards and buildings may have created to protect themselves, determining which takes precedence can sometimes be a little tricky.

Know the Rules

It’s crucial for pet owners, or prospective pet owners, to understand the relevant laws for both their municipality and private community so that they aren’t taken by surprise and possibly forced to give up a pet.

Residents must also abide by laws that are specific to their counties, says Andrew Fortin, senior vice president of communications with Associa, an association management company with nine offices in Florida.

In Florida, residents cannot own any animal prohibited by federal, state or local laws—and Florida itself restricts the ownership of certain exotic pets, and separates these animals into categories. The first category includes animals that are not allowed to be kept as pets under any circumstances. This includes chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, baboons, leopards, jaguars, elephants, bears and lions. The second category covers animals, including some smaller monkeys, for which an owner must have a state-issued permit, says Fortin.

Other critters are perhaps less exotic than bears or gorillas, though no more welcome in a condo setting. For example, pitbulls are not permitted anywhere in Miami-Dade County, and many condos and HOAs also restrict ownership of livestock-type animals (such as chickens or goats), as well as certain breeds of dogs more prone to aggression.

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