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CONTACT 13: HOA forces pet owners to walk dogs in streets

Posted at 10:45 PM, Jan 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-27 02:33:05-05

A homeowners association rule being described as dangerous and inhumane has given Contact 13 its newest member of the HOA Hall of Shame. 

Chief Investigator Darcy Spears explains what has residents outraged and afraid for themselves and their pets.

"Come on, kids," says Barbara Carlile, coaxing her dogs along on their walk.

She and the other homeowners of Sterling at Silver Springs think of their dogs as furry children.

Naturally, they want to keep them safe. But here, pet owners struggle to do something that seems contrary to common sense.

The one place you wouldn't want to walk your dog is the only place you can in this east valley community. 

As noted in their December newsletter, "Pets may walk in streets only."

"They're gonna stop and sniff and stop and sniff," said Mary Kua.

"And so we are all afraid to walk our dogs," added Barbary Carlile.

The rule about walking dogs in the street means literally having to walk them down the middle of the road. 

This is an HOA that doesn't have sidewalks and all the rocks and bushes on the side of the road are HOA property. So dogs walking on rocks, sniffing plants or lifting a leg could lead to violations and fines for their owners.

"They got CC&Rs in here that says you're allowed two dogs. If they don't want dogs here they need to change the CC&Rs," said Jim Sholar, who doesn't own a dog, but was one of nearly 20 homeowners who showed up to induct their HOA into Contact 13's Hall of Shame.

Contact 13 learned the dog-walking in the street is not in the community's Covenants, Codes and Restrictions. The CC&Rs just say owners have to clean up after their animals in lots and common areas. 

But they also say the board can make more rules to regulate pets.

"We love our pets!" said homeowner Richard Pearson. "Sometimes walking our pets is the only exercise we get. This time of year is not too bad, but you get in the summer."

Pearson says forcing dogs to walk on asphalt in the summer heat could constitute cruelty. 

An HOA legal expert we spoke to says associations can't pass rules that make you hurt your pet. 

According to state law, rules must be reasonable and cannot "arbitrarily restrict conduct."

Pearson said, "I understand the importance of it but there's got to be humanity with it. This is an issue with the board."

An issue we tried to help resolve by calling every board member to ask what the point of the streets-only rule is when they already have a rule requiring owners to pick up after their pets. 

After leaving a message for the board president, we tried the vice president who promptly hung up the phone on us. When we called the treasurer, who also hung up.

We did find one board member who didn't want to go on camera but said she disagrees with the rule. 

Her exact words: "Dogs should be able to walk wherever people can walk."

Homeowners want the board to replace one of their disused putting greens with a little park -- just a small part of the community they believe should go to the dogs.

Community Association Manager Barbara Holland, who also wouldn't go on camera, told me the board hasn't enforced the streets-only rule. So far -- no notices or fines. 

Homeowners took the issue to their board meeting earlier this week and were told they'd get a response at the next meeting in February.

We'll be watching to see if anything changes.