Q: One of our owners has an aggressive dog that has bitten residents on multiple occasions and often escapes its handler. We have called animal control, but the dog is still on the property. Should the HOA be concerned?
A: Yes, the HOA should be concerned. My experience is that animal control will conduct a thorough investigation, but very reluctant to permanently remove a dangerous dog from a home. Thus, the HOA should encourage any concerned owners or victims to file a report, but the Board of Directors should also consult its legal counsel to discuss its own liability and possible recourse.
A homeowners’ association does owe a duty to residents, and sometimes that duty requires corrective measures when there is a known and dangerous condition. For example, if these attacks occur on common area sidewalks, the association may have to take some corrective action. If your documents are well written, this may dictate that the Board itself can find that the dog is dangerous and demand the owners remove the dog. If the owners refuse, then the Board may have the authority to obtain an injunction and recover its attorneys’ fees. If the governing documents are not well written, then the Association may be limited to solutions which penalize the owner, but fall short of actually removing the dangerous dog.
In short, the Association and its owners should pursue a solution through animal control, but the Board should also be prepared to enforce its governing documents if necessary to remove a dangerous animal and you should consult your legal counsel to determine the strength of your documents and the specific facts of your case.
Steven J. Adamczyk Esq., is a shareholder of the law firm Goede, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC. T o ask Mr. Adamczyk questions about your issues for future columns, send your inquiry to: email@example.com. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.