A homeowner association may be liable for permitting dangerous dogs to remain on the common areas and private streets owned and controlled by the association.
A homeowner association may be liable for permitting dangerous dogs to remain on the common areas and private streets owned and controlled by the association. The Board of Directors of these associations have a fiduciary duty to manage and operate the common areas, including making them safe and warning of any known dangerous conditions. Although there are not many cases establishing precisely the liabilities and responsibilities of homeowner associations pertaining to dogs, the prudent association would be well advised to enact Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (called “CC&Rs”) that would place reasonable restrictions on an owner’s ability to house vicious and potentially dangerous animals. The laws and court opinions applying to landlord liability are generally applicable to homeowner associations because such associations own the common areas of a development and are legally responsible for maintaining them. See Landlord Liability for Dog Bites.
CC&Rs are legally binding and “run with the land,” meaning that a homeowner is required by law to conform to them. The homeowner association is also required to enforce them. Therefore CC&Rs are properly regarded as the laws of the neighborhood. They create duties which, if breached, can probably be the basis of a negligence action by a nonresident, or an enforcement action by a member of the community bound by the same CC&Rs.
The following is a pet policy that a homeowner association can enact in its CC&Rs. The main elements of this policy are:
- No household can have more than 3 dogs or 2 cats.
- No animal can be bred for sale or any illegal purpose.
- The Board of Directors can force a homeowner to get rid of any animal posing a threat to the health, safety or welfare of any resident.
- Owners are strictly liable for damage or injury caused by their pets.
- Dogs have to be leashed in common areas, but are not allowed to be tied up.
- Owners have to clean up their pets’ messes.
- Certain breeds of dog, and certain behaviors of a dog, are completely prohibited, meaning that they cannot reside at the development or even be there temporarily.
The breeds and behaviors that are prohibited include the following:
- A dog that the animal control authorities officialy declared to be vicious or dangerous.
- A dog that bites or otherwise injures a resident.
- A dog that initiated a fight with another resident’s dog.
- A dog which caused a resident to take defensive action to avoid injury.
- A dog that repeatedly violates the city’s noise ordinance by barking.
- A dog that exceeds 60 pounds or 25 inches.
- Any of the recognized fighting dogs or large guard dogs (many of which have been entirely outlawed in different parts of the world): Akita, American Bulldog, American Mastiff, Bandog, Boerboel, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso, Cane da Presa, Chow Chow, Dogo Argentino, English Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, Kangal, Neapolitan Mastiff, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Shar Pei, or Tosa.
- Pit bulls and their mixes.
Here is the entire pet policy:
- Only ordinary domesticated household pets including dogs, cats, birds (in cages only), fish (in tanks), and hamsters (or like animals) kept in cages may be in any Unit. All such pets shall comply with the following restrictions as well as those contained in the Rules. Any pet which violates these restrictions at the time this Declaration is adopted will be deemed grandfathered but when the pet dies or moves he or she may not be replaced except by a pet that adheres to these restrictions.
- A. Number. The total number of dogs that may reside in any Unit is three (3). The total number of cats that may reside in any Unit is two (2).
- B. Prohibited Breeds and Characteristics. The following dogs shall not reside or be present temporarily at the Development: (a) a dog which has been declared by a public agency to be potentially dangerous, potentially vicious, dangerous or vicious; (b) a dog which has caused bodily injury to any resident of the Development; (c) a dog which has initiated a fight with any other dog belonging to a resident of the Development; (d) a dog which by its aggressive behavior has caused a resident of the Development to take evasive action to avoid being injured by the dog; (e) any Akita, American Bulldog, American Mastiff, Bandog, Boerboel, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso, Cane da Presa, Chow Chow, Dogo Argentino, English Mastiff, Fila Brasileiro, Kangal, Neapolitan Mastiff, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Shar Pei, or Tosa; (f) any American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, pit bull type of dog, or pit bull mix; (g) any wolf-dog hybrid; (h) any dog that violates noise restrictions of the City of Los Angeles on a repeated basis; (i) any dog of a breed which when fully grown usually exceeds 60 pounds or a height of 25 inches at the withers.
- C. No Commercial Use. No animal living in the Development may be bred for the purpose of sale or any commercial or illegal purpose.
- D. Removal. The Board may cause the removal from the Unit and Development of any animal which (a) in the opinion of the board poses a threat to the health, safety or welfare of any other Resident, or (b) violates any provision of this section.
- E. Liability/Indemnity. All Owners are strictly liable for any damage or injury to Persons or property caused by their pets. Further, each Owner shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless the Association and its officers, directors, employees, committee members, manager, and agents from all claims, obligations, liabilities, damages, expenses, judgments, attorneys’ fees and costs arising from or related to his or her pets.
- F. Leash. Dogs shall be kept on a physical leash at all times when they are in the Common Areas but may not be tied to any object. The leash must comply with law, be 6 feet or less in length, and must be held by an adult who can control the dog.
- G. Litter. Each Owner shall immediately remove and dispose of any litter left by his or her pet in the Common Areas, the Owner’s Patio, and the public alley leading to the cul-de-sac on the north side of the Development.