Q Last year I became disabled and applied to the board for approval for a companion dog. Upon approval, I signed an agreement that restricted the dog from certain areas and reiterated the dog could not be a nuisance to neighbors. I installed $6,000 of thick padding and carpeting as well as rugs. The dog is fabulous, no barking, etc. Recently we have had children visit on a regular basis, three times a week, and they play with the dog for about 30 minutes. Other than a few times that the dog has run across the unit a few times at night, that’s really it. I received a letter from the board regarding the excessive, disruptive noise from my unit. What does this mean for my right to have this dog?
—Muzzled in Medford
“If a service dog, in my opinion, the unit owner has the unfettered right to have the dog. If the dog is a medically supported, emotional support animal, again, in my opinion, the unit owner can have a dog, but possibly he/she may have to get a different dog that does not produce excessive, disruptive noise assuming the excessive, disruptive noise is caused by the dog.
“With that said, it is unclear if from the “facts" set forth in the question whether the excessive, disruptive noise is made by the dog. First, apparently the complaints do not relate to barking, as the questioner indicates there is no barking. Therefore, it is my assumption the noise complained of relates to noise created as a result of the children playing with the dog or the dog running across the unit at night. It very well could be the children are making the noise and not the dog.
“If it is the children making the noise, the unit owner should have them play with the dog outside of the unit. If the noise is caused by the dog running across the unit at night, the unit owner may have to crate the dog at night.
“Finally, from the “facts" is not clear whether the complaints are based upon truly excessive, disruptive noise caused by the dog or is an exaggeration of the noise by individuals who just don't want to have a dog on the premises. Before this particular dog can be removed, the accusations of excessive, disruptive noise should be substantiated. Further, to be a nuisance the offending activity must be offensive to a reasonable person and not someone who is hypersensitive to noise or dogs.
“In summary, in my opinion the complaints in this case do not justify removal of the dog, but the disabled unit owner may have to take additional steps to prevent noise, such as crating the dog at night or not allowing children to play with the dog in the unit.
“I assume from the context of the question that dogs are not permitted in this condominium. Secondly, if the dog is a service dog, one would think that it is properly trained and would not be a source of excessive, disruptive noise. On the other hand, an emotional support dog need not be specially trained and could be a source of excessive, disruptive noise.”