Can Community Associations Ban Specific Pet Breeds?
There are a variety of dog breeds that are seen, rightly or wrongly, as dangerous – rottweilers, German shepherds, and pit bulls being the most common examples. Florida, among other states, had enacted ‘breed-specific’ legislation barring these breeds from homes and public facilities, but the last bans were abolished in 2023. That said, there is nothing present in current law that prohibits community associations from enforcing their own restrictions on which breeds are permissible to have on their premises. If you have questions or concerns about your rights, an attorney can help get them handled.
Which Restrictions Are Appropriate?
In general, community associations have wide latitude in enforcing their governing documents. If a majority of owners wish to vote to exclude certain breeds of dogs (or other animals), they may run into trouble in trying to do so, potentially inviting a lawsuit. Since 2012, bans on pit bulls and other dog breeds in Florida have only been permitted to stand if they were enacted before October 1, 1990 – but since June 2023, all remaining bans of this nature were declared invalid. If a community association chooses to bar a breed of dog based solely on breed, a unit or parcel owner would immediately have grounds to complain.
This does not mean that a community association must necessarily throw open its proverbial doors to all comers – rather, that any necessary restrictions should be based on other characteristics, because in some associations, restrictions on animals might very well be necessary. For example, an association that would want to restrict German shepherds or pit bulls might require pets to be under a certain size or weight, rather than barring specific breeds.
Emotional Support & Service Animals
While it is generally now more trouble than it is worth to enact breed-specific bans in Florida community associations, any that try to do so would still have to permit emotional support animals (ESAs) and service animals, regardless of breed. As long as a dog fulfills the relevant legal criteria to qualify as either an ESA or a service animal, it must be accepted by a community association – to do otherwise potentially runs afoul of both the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Acts (FHA) both state and federal.
It is possible for a community association to refuse a person with an ESA or a service animal if accepting it would create an “undue financial and administrative burden” on them – but establishing this can be difficult, particularly in larger condo associations or HOAs. Consulting an attorney is generally a good idea, regardless of which side of a dispute one is on – clarifying one’s options is never a bad idea.
Contact A Tampa Community Association Attorney
The abolition of breed-specific bans in Florida has been greeted by dog owners as a net positive, but it does create questions and concerns for landlords and community association boards. If you have questions about your responsibilities regarding pets, emotional support animals, or service animals, a Tampa community association attorney from the Seward Law Office should be your first call. Attorney Alicia Seward and the Seward Law Office are ready and willing to try and assist you. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.