Dangerous Dogs List – HOAs Take Heed

Pets That Are a Nuisance; Dogs That Are Uninsurable – Beware!

I don’t like to pick on dogs – I love animals – well behaved animals that is. Pets that are allowed to become a nuisance should trot their owners to obedience school, because it is usually the owner that is the problem, more
than the pet.

Still, some breeds of dogs are simply uninsurable by some insurance companies. Why? Because the actuarial tables show that they are high risk breeds for hurting other pets or people and the insurance companies don’t want to take the risk. These breeds include:  Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Akita, Berrnese, Canary Dog, Chow Chow, Doberman, Husky, Karelian Bear, Rhodesian Ridgeback, and Russo-European Laika.

There are surely some dogs in these categories that don’t get a fair shake.

Still, do you want to be the person paying a high price when someone else’s problem pet injures a neighbor, a small chlld? The internet is filled with stories about “surprising” dog maulings of family members or close friends, or dog owners, by dogs whose families or owners claimed never showed any propensity for danger. Even more reason why people need to be wary of dogs that are bred for or genetically predisposed to kill or mail to protect or attack.

The owners of these pets should take extra precautions to protect others, and make sure their pets are properly trained, and properly restrained. But do they? Not always. They should take full responsibility for all costs, losses and damages when their pets do attack persons, other pets, or damage property. But do they? Not always. And if they do not or cannot get insurance for injuries caused by their pets, how could they compensate anyone for a tragic loss of any kind?

So someone has to be the “bad guy” when a situation arises where a dog exhibits any kind of threatening behavior, or is left to run loose in the common area. An HOA or Condo Board needs to take steps to minimize the risks when there is a dog (or any other pet or hazard for that matter) that is threatening.

I can tell you about one particular scenario where the Board did not go far enough. The first time the dog bared its teeth a neighbor reported it and the Board sent a warning letter. The second time – the dog lunged (on a leash but still) at a neighbor’s dog when the residents were out walking and tried to grab a bite. The incident was reported and the owner was ordered to keep a muzzle on the dog when it was out in the common area. The third incident was not quite so tame. The dog owners had the dog tied up in the front yard to a tree, behind a short decorative fence with a gate. The dog had been given a sow’s ear to chew on. A neighbor’s young daughter saw the dog in the yard, opened the gate, and tried to take the sow’s ear – the dog mauled the child and there were serious
injuries, and the HOA had to defend a serious lawsuit in a claim that exceeded the Association’s $1,000,000 liability policy. The case eventually settled for the policy limits. The non-involved owners in the association were lucky they didn’t have to pay out of pocket on a judgment that could have been in the millions.

One can argue the little girl should not have been in the neighbor’s yard and should not have tried to take the sow’s ear away from the dog, or that the dog should not have been tied up in the yard, or blah blah blah.

But the discussion was this: the dog owners had no assets (they were renters), no insurance, and no order to remove the dog from the development. They used the muzzle when walking the dog. There were no rules about tying a dog up in the front yard. So they could not and did not pay their share.  The homeowner was sued along with the association but had no insurance, and was not a “deep pocket” either. They settled for a small portion of the judgmen ($25,000)t.  The association had insurance, and the power to assess owners, and the Board had not issued an order to remove the dog from the development. No one could fault a 4 year old for not understanding the danger in approaching the dog. Even if there had been signs, the small child could not read them.

I would have to say the evidence stacks up for me in favor or barring any dogs that show any threatening tendencies from the association. I do believe that proof of some kind of threatening behavior is an important element before the drastic remedy of ordering removal of the dog from the development is issued.

Most association governing documents do allow Boards sufficient authority to adopt rules banning the “dangerous” breeds of dogs and allowing for rules mandating  removal of dogs that have shown threatening tendencies.  One thing to keep in mind though is that if rules are passed barring dogs from the dangerous dogs list, current dogs on the list may have to be grandfathered. Adopting rules and grandfathering properly
(so that you are not grandfathering bad behavior or a nuisance situation) takes finesse and an understanding of California law. Seek professional help to do it right.

If you are a dog owner and your dog is on the dangerous dogs list (or could be a danger to others), make sure that you take all necessary precautions to preventany kind of threatening behavior on the part of your dog, and make doubly sure the dog is not left to run free in the common area or kept in the front yard or any area that can be accessed by children. You and your dog could find yourself subject to a removal order.  And if you are a landlord, consider yourself smart to prohibit tenants from keeping any dogs from the dangerous dog list on your
property.

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4 Responses to Dangerous Dogs List – HOAs Take Heed
  1. Elsa L. Weber MS,. CHES
    July 8, 2012 | 10:48 pm

    I live in a 55 and over community with a HOA. They have had the same pet policy for many years that has never been inforced. Recently they decided to implement a “Dog” survey. No other class of pets are included on the survey. In addition there is not mention of it in the CC&Rs. Recently they decided that anyone not filling out the “Dog” survey will be fined. They gave no notice to the community about the new “dog” survey nor did they give notice on the fine. Can they force people to fill out the survey? Some people here are calling it discrimination.

    • Beth Grimm
      July 12, 2012 | 4:34 am

      I would suggest that there is probably not a legal basis to fine an owner who refuses to fill out the dog survey – unless there is some requirement in the CC&Rs that says the association is authorized to seek that information. I do not know the motivation for asking for the information. Perhaps the board is considering adopting some rules related to dogs – perhaps the board has identified some problems that need to be dealt with. Perhaps the board realizes that if rules are passed that would prohibit dogs already in the development, some of the dogs currently in the development need to be grandfathered, and wants to identify those. It is unusual that a board would ask for information without some purpose in mind. You have said there is nothing in the CC&Rs about dogs.It certainly is appropriuate to ask the board why it is doing the survey.

  2. Kevin Concannon
    July 11, 2012 | 3:07 pm

    I have a female boxer (5 years old). My dog is extremely friendly, however boxer is listed on my HOA list of dangerous dogs. What is your previous experience with boxer being aggressive. My condo has the exact list of dogs you listed and 1 addition “boxer’.

    • Beth Grimm
      July 12, 2012 | 4:20 am

      I do not know anything specifically about boxers. A web search might produce a different list. The list I use was provided by an insurance vendor. Different companies may have posted different lists.