Animals are an essential component of nature, and in a homeowners’ association (HOA), their presence can add to the beauty and aesthetic of a community. From ducks in a community pond to a surprise deer sighting, homeowners may have the chance to see a variety of creatures depending on where they live. However, when issues arise, it’s common for homeowners to look to their board for help. What boards and HOAs can and cannot do regarding stray animals, pests, and wildlife varies by community, but there are some general guidelines leaders should keep in mind to facilitate a peaceful coexistence. Read on to learn more about the types of wildlife that can be present in HOAs, the problems they can cause, and how boards can be proactive.
Types of Wildlife in Communities
The types of wildlife visible in HOAs will vary from region to region, but many areas will find:
- Reptiles (e.g., alligators in the southeast)
In addition, everyday activities can encourage rodent and insect populations, like mosquitoes, mice, and rats, to visit a community more frequently.
The Concerns Over Wildlife & Stray Animals in HOAs
While beautiful and fascinating, attracting wildlife to HOA grounds can lead to numerous issues that affect safety and quality of life. The biggest concerns over unwanted wildlife and stray animals include:
- Safety hazards. Some wild animals can cause serious injury, disease, and even death—and harm pets.
- Damage and destruction. Animals can tip trash bins over and damage fences, gardens, outdoor furniture, and other areas.
- Decreased property values. Left unchecked, a wild or stray animal issue can reduce the appeal of a community and cause property values to fall.
- Attracting pests. Food scraps may attract undesirable pests, such as rats, mice, bugs, and scavenger-type animals, which might invade homes and destroy properties over time.
- Increased risks of diseases and illnesses. Animal droppings and bites can cause diseases and illnesses.
- Harm to animals. By interacting with wildlife, you might disrupt their instinctual abilities to hunt, causing them physical harm if the food they’re eating isn’t ideal for their digestive systems.
HOA Board Wildlife Best Practices
The role your board and HOA play when it comes to wildlife and stray animals will vary by association, location, laws, and the wants and needs of residents. However, here are four general best practices to consider when managing animals.
1. Draft a formal animal policy.
Draft an animal policy detailing association and resident rights and responsibilities regarding wildlife, pets, and stray animals so residents know what is and isn’t allowed and what can and cannot be done. Your policy should cover topics like:
- Number and type of pets allowed
- Breed restrictions
- Waste clean-up instructions
- Leash and noise guidelines
- Fence and trash removal policies
- Stray animal feeding rules
Ensure all rules are clear and communicated often. When rules are outlined in a formal policy, residents who want to see their community succeed are more likely to understand the implications of their actions. As always, work with your association’s attorney to create this policy to reduce liability and confirm compliance with local, state, and federal laws.
2. Form a dedicated wildlife committee.
A committee consists of a small group of residents who concentrate on specific community aspects that may require additional oversight, planning, and execution. Educating homeowners, a wildlife committee establishes a more informed membership. A wildlife committee can do its part to help inform fellow homeowners by:
- Offering educational information on wildlife control
- Voting on aspects of wildlife management
- Providing a voice for residents on wildlife topics
- Delivering resources, like contact details for animal control and wildlife rehabilitators
3. Promote open communication.
Strong communication is the key to a strong community. When managing wildlife in an HOA, maintaining frequent and open communication is crucial. Stay connected and share important updates, rule reminders, and helpful tips. These details can be distributed in your community newsletter, website, app, or other channels. Common safety tips include:
- Avoid direct contact with wildlife
- Refrain from feeding wild or stray animals
- Control trash disposal with scheduling and tamper-proof bins
- Never leave pets unattended, and keep them indoors at night
- Block off gardens and backyards, especially if you’re growing fruits and vegetables
4. Connect with local animal control.
Experienced professional advisors and service providers can help your community prepare for the future—and this includes local animal control. Reach out and connect with your local animal control department for assistance. These professionals are trained to handle wildlife situations, and their services may include:
- Community patrols
- Removal of strays
- Removal of dead animals
- Enforcement of wildlife regulations
- Education on animal control for community members
Proactive Steps Equate to a Better Community
Managing wildlife is just one aspect of community safety. There are many other things you and your board can do to promote safe practices in your association. For additional ideas, read our article, “6 Safety Tips For Your HOA,” and make sure you’re doing everything you can to look out for your residents.