Island House is a small condo complex on Hilton Head Island, SC. In a recent letter to homeowners from ASSOCIA, Association Services Management, Inc., signed by Marv DeGraw, “President”… of what the letter doesn’t say…they are asking homeowners to agree to the “ELIMINATION” (my emphasis) of all dogs except Seeing Eye dogs. Despite the violation of the ADA which allows ALL SERVICE DOGS ANYWHERE, ( with a few exceptions) not just Seeing Eye dogs, as a dog lover, and animal rights defender, I DETEST the use of the word ELIMINATION. Mr. DeGraw and this organization are not only out of touch with the reality of how dogs are an integral and essential part of family life and society, but could use a good thesaurus as their word choice is draconian and demeaning to all dogs, pet parents at Island House and everywhere. GET WITH IT… pet travel is increasing greatly, the recession didn’t even make a slight decrease in the amount of money spent on pets as shown in the statistics below. Don’t you realize a dog is a family member? These certainly aren’t people I’d want in charge of my HOA.
After talking to some residents, I found out that the majority of Island House Units are owned by off- property owners. These people rent out their condos for long or short term periods. Taking kids to the beach more than ever includes the family pet and more luxurious locations on Hilton Head and elsewhere WELCOME PETS. How about the Hilton Head Westin Hotel? They have a fantastic Pet WELCOME policy even providing Heavenly Beds for the dogs, food and water bowls, and treats. An owner’s investment in a rental property at Island House will diminish if they’re not able to offer their unit as Pet Friendly. What about people who rent out a unit at Island House as a transition to a home purchase when transferred there by their employment? Do Island House owners want their property removed from every real estate list on the island for relocation if families with pets are not welcome? Is Rover to be left in a kennel for months while a suitable home for purchase is found?
But what about the owners that do live there? While the letter says the new regulation won’t affect current dogs in residence, will the pet parent be able to get another dog should their dog die? The letter doesn’t say they will and usually when a pet is “grandfathered” in, a replacement is not allowed. This is unconscionable, in particular to owners who are elderly. Dogs provide companionship, comfort, enhance the health of their owners by getting them out to exercise, and most of all make a house…whether it’s a small condominium or a mansion…a home. Where does Island House get the right to deny these property owners of ever having a canine companion in the future?
According to the 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 72.9 million dogs are owned in the United States which equates to 46.2% of U.S. households having a dog. Obviously in time, none of them will be a Island house. Dogs are not only family members, they are big business. According to Forbes Magazine, 92% of pet owners spent as much or more on their pets from 2010-2012. http://www.zoomroomonline.com/pet-services.html
Marv’s letter goes on to delineate what seems to be his personal dislike for dogs, and maybe life in general. He accuses owners of “sneaking two dogs into a unit.” Does he make a habit of personally observing this? Where is the evidence that two dogs cause excessive damage? Quite the contrary as they keep each other company and ease anxiety of being alone. He takes offense that “some dog owners even allow their dogs to pee on the white stones under the stairwells” and that “poop on the grass is a constant problem.” Really? Ever think of putting up a container of bags for dog owners to use for cleaning up after their dog like every civilized city has visible everywhere and Hilton Head Beach as well? How would you know a dog “peed” on a stone unless you were on ready alert at all times watching them?
Marv goes on to say “Dog abuses are hard to monitor.” Really? What do you mean here? Do you forget that this is where people LIVE….this is their home. Does privacy end with a purchase or lease at Island House? And again, you need someone to proof read your letter. I assume you don’t mean beating and maiming of dogs which is what “dog abuse” unfortunately means, but you must mean violations of your rules which appear completely without merit.
Marv goes on to say that “most condo complexes no longer allow dogs”? Do you have any statistics to prove this, because I have them to prove you WRONG. The trend in the United States today is toward allowing more privileges for dogs like our neighbor to the North, Canada and most European Cities. There are restaurants that allow you to dine with your dog, airlines devoted to just pet travel, and most hotel chains allow dogs.
Service dogs perform many valuable services today and Island House will definitely face lawsuits if they only allow Seeing Eye Dogs. Dogs assist paralyzed individuals, there are hearing assistance dogs, dogs that are trained to retreive items from store shelves for people in wheelchairs, or recognize the onset of a seizure. Dogs help kids become better readers, comfort people in nursing homes, calm the distraught in hospitals at the bedside of a loved one in critical condition and dozens of other services. Will police officers who have a K-9 dog be barred from residence at Island House? Discrimination against these individuals is a serious problem for this company and Mr. DeGraw. Take a look at this website for more information: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20101124134608AAWVtPK
I urge the owners and tenants of Island House to confront Mr. DeGraw on this issue and to attend their HOA meeting on January 19, 2013…conveniently scheduled for 9:00 a.m. when many people are at work and the only people available will be Marv who obviously is available to monitor dog behavior at all times and others who also have plenty of leisure time. Contact the Humane Society of the United States, PETA, the SPCA and other animal rights groups to help you. Find a way to make your vote count and vote for decency, kindness, tolerance, and the right of people to have their best friend by their side. Oh, you might want to think about electing a new President of whatever Marv’s is in charge of and a new Board of Directors that actually live on the premises and have a sense of the value of dogs.