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Can an HOA Force You to Get Rid of Your Dog?

Each homeowner’s association has its own community rules, regulations, and restrictions. If you live in an HOA neighborhood, there are almost certainly limits on what you can do to – and on – your property, as well as requirements for how you must maintain it.

Some communities can be relatively relaxed, often requiring not much more than some basic appearance requirements that you’d agree with anyway. Other HOAs, though, can seem like their own micronations that severely limit homeowners’ rights and privileges. Whether your HOA is more relaxed or strict, though, it can honestly be a coin toss as to how pets are taken into account.

Are Pet Restrictions Legal in Oklahoma HOAs?

Yes, your HOA can absolutely restrict you from owning certain pets. When an HOA’s Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) limit pet ownership, though, dogs are typically the most restricted after exotic pets that you’d have a hard time finding anywhere but a farm or zoo. CC&Rs can limit the total number of animals that can be owned, ban specific dog breeds, place a weight limit on dogs that are allowed in the community, or determine that dogs aren’t welcome in the community at all.

The same can be said for any other kind of pet, really. An HOA in a multifamily dwelling can ban fish for the same reason waterbeds are also often prohibited: Should the tank burst, the neighbors below or beside you are in the splash zone! While this can be a good reason to ban a specific kind of pet, the HOA doesn’t have to provide a justification for banning any kind of pet.

Do I Have to Give up My Pets?

Not necessarily, but there are two important circumstances where an HOA board can compel you to remove your pet:

  • If you move into an HOA neighborhood and agree to CC&Rs that prohibit dogs that match your dog’s breed or weight, the board can act to force you to remove your dog. You chose to agree to rules that would have prohibited you from moving in with your dog, so it was your responsibility to find a new home for your pet or choose not to live in the HOA community.
  • Even if your pet is allowed to live within the community, a biting incident could be a violation of the CC&Rs, and you may be compelled to remove your dog.

In either scenario, you shouldn’t expect someone from the HOA board to come to your door and take away your dog. These matters must be handled by filing a civil lawsuit seeking injunctive relief, which is a court order to remove your dog.

What If the Rules Change after I Move in?

HOAs can certainly change pet rules – or any rules, for that matter – at any point. This means that a dog breed or size that was permitted when you purchased your property may now be prohibited by the community.

If you already owned a pet that would now be in violation of the new rules, however, chances are it would be “grandfathered” in. This means that despite the new rules, you are allowed to keep your pet because it wasn’t prohibited at the time you acquired it. In other words, the rule is unlikely to be retroactively enforced.

It’s important to note, though, that any pet rule changes are applicable going forward. Just because you agreed to CC&Rs that allowed a rottweiler (for example) at purchase, it does not mean you can still get a rottweiler if the rules change in the future and you don’t already own one.

Are Service Animals Subject to Pet Bans?

Your HOA has the right to ban pets or those with certain traits, but that right is not absolute. Federal disability and housing laws permit people with physical and mental disabilities to own service animals that help them accomplish daily tasks, as a form of reasonable accommodation.

Ownership of emotional support animals – which are not specifically trained to perform tasks but instead provide owners with comfort and support – is also generally protected, but consulting with an attorney who is knowledgeable in nuances of these laws is advised.

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