There are a lot of dogs in condos. An informal survey conducted in Toronto found that there is an average of seven per floor in most buildings. That’s 280 pooches in a typical 40-storey building. With the average dog producing roughly 120 kilograms of waste every year, it’s possible to appreciate the kind of issues property managers and residents are dealing with.
The City of Toronto suggests there isn’t enough public property to handle the growing number of pets. The municipality wants to see more pet amenities introduced on privately managed properties. Most new multi-residential builds are adding amenities such as dog runs, designated poop-and-scoop areas and pet wash systems, while older properties are looking to retrofit them.
In addition, as the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) has pointed out, dog waste is toxic, and the viruses, bacteria and parasites found in dog waste can cause disease. With children and other dogs being particularly susceptible to the diseases transmitted by dog poop, this issue extends well beyond the inconvenience of dog poop on a person’s shoe.
So, what to do about the increasing concentration of pets and pet waste in condo communities?
Some condo boards in Toronto have recently chosen to ban pets from properties. Another option that is relatively new in Canada is dog DNA registration, which matches waste to offending pooches. The aim of such programs is not to catch and fine pet owners for not scooping their dogs’ poop, but instead to make residents aware that they can be caught and held accountable for not being responsible pet owners. When it was rolled out across the U.S., the program’s introduction alone was enough to change behaviour, with only a small number of fines actually being issued.
Before proceeding with a dog DNA registration program, it’s important to educate residents about a condo corporation’s existing pet policies through emails, flyers and notices. Explain the health risks posed to other residents and pets when they don’t scoop up after their pooch. Also publish the estimated cost of clean-up per incident, including estimated costs of damage to grass, trees, flowers and sidewalks as well as carpet, wallpaper and furniture. And don’t forget to mention the $240 City of Toronto fine for not scooping.
If there isn’t a drastic reduction in pet waste within 30 days of posting educational notices, the board has at least informed residents of their obligations to the property. It is now the board’s obligation to protect all residents from potential health risks, protect the corporation from any liability associated with said health risks and preserve property assets.
If the board decides to pursue a dog DNA registration program, it will have to answer some questions. Will the dog DNA registration firm or property management company manage the program? And will the dog DNA registry be rolled out to existing residents or begin with new residents?
The board should ensure that the firm it selects complies with federal privacy laws. If the firm provides prepared pet policies, they should be reviewed by the condo corporation’s legal counsel to identify whether they require any customization.
Most condo boards make dog DNA registration mandatory by passing a rule. The condo board has to carefully consider the terms to make sure the rules conform to its declaration and the Condominium Act. If the issue is significant, the board may want to go further and try to obtain the requisite unit owners’ support to pass a bylaw establishing mandatory DNA registration.
If the condo board passes a rule, it must send an initial notice to all residents, informing them of the decision, why it has been made and what is to follow. If the 30-day notice period for the new rule expires without a challenge from owners, the board must then send a second notice providing instructions on how to register dogs, which involves using a cheek swab kit.
Lastly, the board needs to determine the number of waste sample kits required and the procedure for processing any dog waste found on the premises. The dog DNA registration firm should also provide ongoing updates of registered pet certificates to be cross-referenced with a list of known pet owners.
Going forward, developers may want to consider enshrining mandatory pet DNA registration provisions in declarations when condo corporations are first registered. In the meantime, existing condo corporations tackling the issue must take a fair, balanced approach to enforcing rules relating to dog waste, following the law and the specific provisions of their declaration.
Garry Bradamore brings 25 years of marketing and service expertise to the introduction of PooPrints Canada, which was launched in September of 2016.
David Spencer earned his B.A. from Queens University in 1980, his LLB from Osgoode Hall Law School in 1983 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1985. David has been with SRLaw since 2001, and became a partner in 2009.