Making Your HOA Community More Pet Friendly


In a previous article, we discussed the appeal of community amenities to California homebuyers. In this article, we look at amenities targeted specifically to pet owners.

You may have noticed that many homeowners associations are adding amenities aimed at making their communities more pet friendly. These can range from simply having water bowls and dog treats available in the main office to providing on-site pet grooming services.

Why have pet amenities become so popular? Quite simply, the number of households with pets continues to grow. And since most pet owners consider their animal companions to be part of the family, they want them to enjoy where they live.

According to the latest statistics, nearly 53 percent of California households have a pet (American Veterinary Medical Association). Forty percent of those have at least one dog (seeCalifornia.com). In addition, 16 California cities—including San Francisco and Los Angeles—were named among the top 100 pet-friendly cities on WalletHub’s 2016 list.

But before spending money on pet amenities for your residents and to attract potential buyers, do a little research:

  • Find out how many current residents actually have pets.
  • Evaluate your space to determine if you are set up for the amenities you have in mind.
  • Survey your homeowners to see if they are willing to appropriate space and money for pet amenities.

Depending on what you discover, you may want to consider some of the following suggestions for making your community more pet friendly.

1. Provide ways for pet owners to socialize. This can be as simple as putting up a bulletin board where pet owners can find each other or sharing referrals to pet services. With just a little extra planning, your community can go a step farther by sponsoring activities such as social hours, pet parades or dog-friendly hikes. Invite all residents to attend so everyone can meet and enjoy the community’s four-legged residents.

2. Offer specialized pet services. Depending on how your community is set up, you might want to consider leasing on-site space to a veterinarian or groomer. Alternatively, you could provide pet owners with a directory of local pet services.

3. Install pet waste stations. Putting stations along routes and open spaces where residents typically walk their dogs makes it easier for them to dispose of waste. Not only is this a convenience for pet owners, but it also keeps the community cleaner. Waste stations should have both plastic bag dispensers and covered receptacles to minimize odor, and they should not be located directly in front of anyone’s home. Be sure to have a plan for regularly replenishing bags and emptying waste.

4. Build a dog park. Dogs (and their owners!) love to socialize, and dog parks provide a safe way to do just that. Plus, well-exercised pets tend to be calmer, making them more enjoyable for everyone in the neighborhood.

Choose a location far enough from homes so barking won’t disturb residents. The space should be large enough for the dogs to run, but it doesn’t need to be perfectly flat. If possible, have separate enclosures for small and large dogs. Make fencing at least five feet high, and include a double gate. For the surface, use decomposed granite rather than grass. Grass is easily damaged from use—not to mention urine—and it requires regular maintenance. Add benches and shading where pet owners can relax while their dogs play. A nice addition is a high/low water fountain so that both people and dogs can get a drink.

5. Create a dog run. Not enough room for a dog park? A dog run may be just the answer. Dog runs can be a smaller version of a dog park, or they can be built into an existing structure. A large terrace or even the roof of a building can provide the ideal location. If the dog run will be part of a structure, plan to include a built-in rinsing and drainage system to keep the surface clean.

Your HOA must be realistic about what your community can accommodate and what it can afford. Before building anything, check local ordinances, speak to your insurance agent and get bids from reputable companies. Most importantly, don’t just think about what the pet owners in your community want; be sure to consider the needs of your pet-free residents, too. Managed correctly, amenities that enhance pet-friendly living can actually benefit your entire community.

Want to find out more about how you can enhance your residents’ quality of life? An experienced community management company can help. Contact FirstService Residential, California’s leading provider of HOA management services, or fill out the form below.

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