Our neighborhood is new constructions and was originally planned with walking trails and two dog parks, one very small, leash required area with just a tunnel and a hill, and a larger fenced dog park in the final phase. This attracted a LOT of dog people. Later the city withdrew their approval for the second dog park because of some zoning issues they should have known about before they approved it. I bet you can imagine how those HOA meetings go, along with the posts on the neighborhood Facebook group!
I bet these are some “lively” discussions! In our neighborhood lots of the controversies do involve dogs. The current complaint is that dogs are peeing on mail boxes and killing the plants there. I imagine this will be a heated topic at the upcoming meeting. A few years ago there was an all out war over whether to spend extra funds on landscaping or save for future road maintenance. Some are still not speaking to this day over this...no more HOAs for me!
Now you have hit on a subject I know a thing or two about because I have seen a thing or two!
Momi, Popi, and Ricky live in a large 1800+ single family home, gated HOA. The community has been under construction for the last 13 years by a large, national developer and will be completely built out by the end of this year. We have 3000+ residents and an estimated 1000+ dogs in residence. The community consists of several hundred acres with about 50% mandated to remain in natural open space which consists of wildlife habitat, wetlands, and hiking trails within the fenced area and open only to residents of the community. There are over 6 miles of maintained walking trails that are handicapped accessible and open to dogs on leash, but no bicycles allowed. The developer has put in "poop stations" along the trails and sidewalks that are maintained by the HOA with waste disposal containers and poop bag dispensers. Although we have over 20 special interest groups, community surveys show that "walking" is the number one community priority (with the wine club being number 2
). Momi and Popi have lived here about 7 years.
Ricky came to his forever home in November, 2014. Dog ownership in our community was very controversial and divisive at that time with a movement to ban dogs completely. And Momi and Popi were upset with the conditions too. Although we had poop stations, many owners were not picking up after their dogs and poop was being left on the sidewalks and on the trails, the situation was intolerable. A majority of the Board of Directors were openly hostile to dog ownership.
That same month Ricky came to live with us as a 9 month old, Popi started the Dog Owners Group (D.O.G.) for members of our community. Popi has some considerable experience in elected politics, community organization, and establishing goals and objectives. My objectives were threefold:
1. provide a social network for dog owners and their dogs
2. provide a lobbying effort to protect dog owner rights and educate the community about the benefits of dog ownership
3. educate dog owners about personal responsibility for their dog, the benefits of dog training, and the importance of complying with community rules and leash laws.
It was a tall order but the response has been overwhelming. Today, D.O.G. is the largest special interest group in our community with several hundred members. We have regular monthly meetings, weekly "pack walks" (that attract as many as 20 dogs at a time from 5 pounds to over 100 pounds who walk together in trained harmony), and through organization we have elected a BOD who are supportive of dogs and their owners. Our community is now spic and span clean from dog waste. Dog owners now not only pick up after their own dog, but also pick up errant waste left by others. I ALWAYS pick up after Ricky, but I hate picking up after other dogs but do it anyway. Our members have established a policy to report owners to management who they see don't pick up after their dog. It is a tough policy (tough love) but it has been very effective.
From the very beginning, Popi worked with the members of D.O.G. to establish a private, fenced, off leash dog park within our gates. The concept was extremely controversial at the time - too expensive, too many barking dogs, too much poop, too many dog fights, not in my back yard, etc. Our group worked hard to elect a sympathetic B.O.D. (we now have considerable political clout), find a suitable location, establish very strict rules for use, and justify the expense. Popi also had himself appointed to a Community Planning advisory committee by the BOD to advise on, among other things, a fenced off leash area!
It has been almost 5 years now but we should start construction on our "dog park" this summer!
Popi has many faults and one of them is incorrigible persistence!
Once he is focused on an issue, he just won't let it go. He is like a Havanese with a bully stick in his mouth! There have been highs and lows in this endeavor over the last 5 years but it will be worth it. We have conducted field trips to public dog parks for 'non-believers' to demonstrate the pros and cons of dog parks, we have found an acre of beautiful flat land in the protected area that is away from homes, AND the developer has agreed to pay for installation of the fenced area - fencing, poop stations, benches, landscaping, irrigation, etc. NO COST TO HOA MEMBERS! You see, once the developer started hinting at their sales office about a private dog park, sales shot up! The rules for using the park are strict - proof of personal liability insurance, dogs must meet minimal behavioral standards (or else off to doggie training boot camp provided by D.O.G.), proof of vaccinations, city dog license, etc. Not everyone is happy (both owners and non-owners) but the vast majority are happy and the end is in sight.
Living in an HOA has it's pros and cons. It isn't perfect, but what is? For Momi, Popi, and Ricky the pros far outweigh the cons in our particular and specific situation. To make your HOA better, you need to become involved, whether it be participating in activities, participating in meetings, taking ownership and pride in the community, and sometimes, just sometimes, becoming a community activist to make things happen. HOA living is not for everyone, but it works for us and our interests - D.O.G., ballroom dance club, bicycle club, counter-culture film club, custom car club, political party club, gardening club, etc.
Well, it is time for Ricky and me to go on our daily 2 1/2 mile morning walk along sidewalks and trails. Ricky will meet many of his doggie amigos for a little play and I will meet with residents, both dog owners and not, for a little social interaction. Everybody knows Ricky by sight and name and want to play with him but many can't remember what my name is (which is good because an effective community activist always wants to blend into the background!