What is a Small Dog? Seeking Definition for Condo Rules.

Defining “small dog”. Some BODs would like to know how to define a “small dog”.  Most associations that adopt definitions that I have seen use 15, 20 or 25 lbs. or under.  That is not very creative but is easy to understand. In adopting such a rule you could state that if the dog is listed on the internet or defined by some reliable source as a “small dog” breed, and it gains weight putting it over 25 lbs, it will be grandfathered. The question then becomes whether you have to hold “weigh ins” to qualify dogs. That is a bit extreme, but a few associations do it, one I heard of that makes it a part of a fun community event relating to education about the rules.

 You could get more creative and identify “small dogs” as tied to breeds of dogs. There are books and also information on the internet about what breeds qualify as “small dogs”. Here is one such site: http://www.allsmalldogbreeds.com/. That might be more limiting than the 15 lb. – 25 lb. rule but there is an objective resource covering the subject. Of course, not all dogs are purebred so I believe a weight limit is still important if you want to initiate an objective standard on size. I once owned a pet that was a cross between a daschund and a St. Bernard (yes, an odd looking but “small” dog) which tells me that anyone having a mutt resulting from odd couplings that grew to a large size might argue their dog qualified as a small dog – if you do not have an “and” or a “or” relating to weight.

 Some associations define small dogs as those that can be carried in a pet carrying case to and from the development so that there are no dogs leaving dander or droppings behind. That is really more of a concern in condo buildings than single family homes or townhomes with grounds.

 Lastly, you might think about adopting a height restriction. However, what happens here is that people want their pets measured when they are puppies and then want to argue that they are of course too attached to give them up when they grow big.  And identifying the age of “full height/adulthood” becomes problematic.

 A Board may have authority to set rules on size – depends on what the governing documents say.

If a board turns its head on what the CC&Rs limits are with regard to size and number of pets, these things can happen:

  1. More dogs – more problems.
  2. More exceptions – the rule dies.
  3. Grant of exceptions, risk of inconsistent treatment claim by others who are denied.

I think the risks outweigh the benefits of being nice. That is the lawyer in me talking.

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2 Responses to What is a Small Dog? Seeking Definition for Condo Rules.
  1. KELLI
    May 27, 2011 | 12:17 pm

    Our condo in Fla is going through upgrades of our Rules and Regs right now and one of the contentious issues happens to be the pet issues….

    I have done some study on this and find that a “small” dog does not mean a dog up to 25 lbs at all…. there are a few links that actually show that this weight (up to 25 lbs. is actually considered a Miniature dog); “Small” dog actually weight up to 39 lbs. I believe the confusion may be coming from the weights the Veterinarians use to deliver the vaccinations. And the Veterinarian I contacted admitted that the weight parameters they use for shots are not necessarily the norm…..

    Check out this sites “realistic” guidlines:

    POCKET: Under 5 lbs/2.3 kg. …
    MINIATURE: 13 to 25 lbs/5.9 to 11.3 kg.
    SMALL: 26 to 39 lbs/11.8 to 17.7 kg. …



    • Beth Grimm
      June 3, 2011 | 6:00 am

      Thanks for the info Kelli. I did a lot of research on this too and find there are different ways to describe a small dog or small breed of dog. If an association for example allows “small dogs” and there was a fight over what that meant, the objective sources would be helpful in providing a definitive definition. It’s hard to make up the rules after the fight has started over an ambiguous standard.

      It would be smarter in drafting regs to be more specific such as defining the criteria the association is going for and so saying “dogs must be 25 lbs. or less” – that’s much more clear than to say “only small” dogs are allowed – because then the question becomes “does that mean “small dogs” or breeds considered “small dogs” or a certain height or weight, or what?

      In some cases a board is going for limiting pets to “carry on” size meaning the owner must be able to carry them to and from the unit, which is not that uncommon in high rises. It won’t work of course for service dogs.