NEW APPROACH TO DOGGY BUSINESS
By: Clarence K. Lau, Esq.
Pet waste in common areas is an unfortunate and recurring issue in many communities. One would assume and expect that neighbors would extend the common courtesy of cleaning up after their dogs. However, as we have all experienced firsthand (or firstfoot), some residents apparently feel that they have no such obligation. This is not only an aesthetic and olfactory nuisance, but a sanitation and health issue as well. Most community association governing documents either expressly prohibit such activity or grant the Board of Directors the authority to adopt rules and regulations to address the issue. The practical problem faced by an association in enforcing such violations is the difficulty of proving which pet or pet owner committed the violation. In the past, associations have had to rely on either video surveillance or testimony from neighbors to provide the evidence necessary to impose fines and other sanctions. However, many violations are not captured by video or witnessed by neighbors and neighbors are often reluctant, in any case, to step forward. Fortunately, recent advances in science and technology may provide a solution.
In order to assist in dealing with this issue, some communities have turned to companies that specialize in providing DNA pet registration services. These companies generally provide DNA collection kits which are used to register each dog in the community. Owners are typically required to set up an appointment (usually at an onsite location) to submit DNA samples for their dogs. When Owners arrive for the appointment (with their dog in tow) they are provided a kit which is used to obtain a DNA sample from their dog, often by means of a cheek swab. Information regarding each dog and its Owner is also entered into a DNA Pet Registry, which allows the Association to keep track of all information related to the pet. Once the DNA samples are obtained, they are sent to a lab for processing. The lab results for each pet are then uploaded to the DNA Pet Registry. After the DNA Pet Registry has been set up, subsequent pet waste violations are easily handled by taking a sample of the waste (using another kit provided by the company) and matching it by DNA testing to the violating pet via the DNA Pet Registry.
Prior to implementing such a program, an association should review its governing documents to confirm (1) that the failure to remove pet waste from the common areas is an actionable violation; (2) that the Association has the authority to require that all Owners register their pets; and (3) that the Association has the authority specially assess the fees associated with the DNA pet registration services. It is usually beneficial to adopt specific regulations setting forth the requirements and procedures needed to implement the program. Your community association attorney can assist with the required review of the governing documents and preparation of the necessary regulations.