Responding to Suspected Pet Abuse
Q Our site's pet rules, like most I've seen, are meant to protect people and property, but I haven't seen any pet rules or house rules that say anything about a resident who is abusing his animal. Can we add something about that to our house or pet rules?
A Site owners and managers can take measures to help protect a pet, says attorney Dan Bancroft, but a special house rule to address the issue may not be necessary.
“There is probably no need to create a special house rule, because the abusive behavior will probably violate existing lease provisions,” Bancroft says. “It may be helpful to think about it as you would any situation that exists inside a resident's unit.”
According to Bancroft, if a site employee or another resident is aware of possible abuse—whether emotional, mental, or physical—that situation should be reported to the proper authorities—for example, social services, police, or animal control. The abusive situation may also violate an existing section of the lease, such as:
Interference with the quiet enjoyment of other residents (you would need a neighbor's complaint to invoke this, not just management's claim);
Violation of a law;
Creation of a disturbance;
Creating an unhealthy, unsafe, and/or unsanitary condition; or
Activity that creates an insurance risk/hazard.
Having a comprehensive pet policy also could help address situations that potentially put an animal in jeopardy, Bancroft notes.
“It's important to have pet rules and a pet agreement or addendum to be signed by the resident when the owner permits residents to have pets,” he says. “Those rules and agreements should set out the resident's obligations as a pet owner, including the fact that the permission given is conditional on the resident's continuing compliance, and that failure to comply and/or violation of the rules may be grounds for removal of the pet and/or termination of the tenancy, or both.”
The addendum also should give the site owner or manager the right to (1) contact the appropriate authorities if a problem with the health or safety of a pet is apparent; and (2) enter the unit and remove the pet in the case of an emergency, Bancroft adds.
Emily Brand, a spokesperson with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), headquartered in New York, encourages anyone—a fellow resident or the site owner or manager—who suspects that a pet is being or has been abused to take action and notify appropriate authorities. “Reporting can be done anonymously if the person is more comfortable with that,” Brand says.
Brand advises checking the ASPCA Web site for a state-by-state list of related laws and agencies that, in addition to local law enforcement agencies, are authorized to investigate reported instances of animal cruelty and make arrests. State and local police generally are mandated to enforce all laws in a given state. You can find more information online at http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/advocacy-center/state-animal-cruelty-laws/.
Dan Bancroft: Broderick Bancroft & Goldberg, 313 Washington St., Ste. 207, Newton, MA 02458; (617) 641-9900; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Brand: Senior Manager, Media & Communications, ASPCA, 520 8th Ave., New York, NY 10018; (212) 876-7700; email@example.com.
Search Our Web Site by Key Words: pet abuse; animal cruelty; pet rules; house rules; lease addendum; lease violation