Pet Owners Can Be Great Neighbors Too

Our HOA is filled with pet owners of all kinds. We love our dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, and the occasional reptile. OK, I personally do NOT love the reptiles, but a few others do. Generally, we haven’t had many pet-related problems.

Pet waste is one of the few. Most of our residents walk their dogs on leashes and use waste bags.  However, there are a few who take advantage of the cul-de-sac design to let their dogs—and cats, let’s be fair—run free to use everyone’s yards as their own dump stations. These folks are breaking the law.

Pets either belong on leashes or in carriages, backpacks, or some other conveyance when allowed off a homeowner’s property. We do not want a cat jumping our back fence to use our child’s sandbox or flower beds as a litterbox—nor do we want a dog disposing of mounds in our front yard.

Most people can understand poop deposits.  Let’s talk about urine.

Many of us work very hard to maintain beautiful lawns. What some might not realize, is that dog and cat urine kills grass. Urine contains a variety of nitrogen compounds that will leave ugly yellow spots on your lawn. If you have many furry neighbors using your lawn as a pee pad and you are seeing yellow spots strewn across your front lawn—now you know why.

Bone of Contention

Since it can be challenging to confront other homeowners about bad pet behavior, I make it a point to set a good example with my dogs. I walk them every day, where everyone can see me do it. I have four waste bags tied to the leashes for accidents. I even feed my dogs supplements that counteract the nitrogen in their urine. To free-range dog owners, I casually mention that they should pick up after their dogs and use these products. While some neighbors might be offended by these suggestions, I’ve found that eventually, they get over it.

What drives me wild is that in the neighboring HOA, dog walkers will leave used waste bags on the ground, rather than dispose of them properly. This happens in public parks, too. I don’t care if you mean to pick this up on your way back home, this is an unsanitary and unsightly practice! If you don’t want to carry the poop in a bag, an easy solution would be to get a dog vest with a utility clamp. Let your dog carry it for you!

Then, there are the cat owners. Most cities do not have a leash law for cats. Some city codes require all outdoor cats must be spayed or neutered.

This is a challenge for HOAs that do not have pet rules written into their bylaws. If a neighbor refuses to restrain his or her cat from other yards, residents will have to use their own resources for deterrence. If your cat is leaving deposits on my lawn, your pet is now my problem.

Alley Cat Allies, a champion of low-cost spay and neuter policies and programs, offers these suggestions to modify stray cats’ behavior:

  • To keep cats away from gardens, flower beds, or specific areas of the property, scatter fragrant items that don’t appeal to a cat’s sense of smell, like fresh orange or lemon peels, organic citrus-scented sprays, coffee grounds, vinegar, pipe tobacco, or oil of lavender, lemongrass, citronella, or eucalyptus.
  • Add the herb rue to gardens to keep cats out or sprinkle dried rue over gardens or landscaping.
  • Set chicken wire firmly into the dirt with sharp edges rolled under.
  • Pick up some Cat Scat™ plastic mats to press into the soil. The mats have flexible plastic spikes that are harmless to cats and other animals, but also discourage digging.
  • Cover exposed ground in flower beds with large (and attractive) river rocks to keep cats from digging.
  • Install an ultrasonic animal repellent or a motion-activated water sprinkler like CatStop™ or ScareCrow™.
  • Combat cat urine smell by spraying the area thoroughly with white vinegar or products using natural enzymes, such as Nature’s Miracle®, Fizzion Pet Stain & Odor Remover®, or Simple Solution®.

Revise the Rules

Sometimes the best defense is to rewrite the rules. HOAs without pet rules in their agreements could consider adding the suggestions in HOA Management’s blog post. The tips include:

  • Homeowners must register their pets with the HOA.
  • Enforce waste cleanup.
  • HOA dog barking rules.
  • Keep pets leashed.
  • Establish liability for pet owners.

Related Article: Not My Pet, Not my Problem

Finally, make the association’s pet rules clear upfront.  If new residents know the rules before the move-in date, there is less chance of uncomfortable misunderstandings. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of poop!

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