GSL Lets Cats out of the Bag (or Unit!) and Helps Clients Deal with Pet Hoarding

By Mary-Joy Howes, Esq.

Pet hoarding has become an increasingly messy problem for condominium associations.  It is important for associations to understand what their rights and remedies are – and how to enforce them in situations that threaten the well-being of the community’s health, safety, and property.

The following case in point involves cats, but many others have involved dogs:

Recently, neighboring unit owners in a Rhode Island condominium had been complaining about multiple cats and a severe odor of cat urine emanating from one of the units.   The smell was so strong that you could smell it from across the street, and fellow unit owners were becoming physically ill.  At least a dozen cats were reported to have been living inside the unit.

Providence Animal Control visited the unit, but they were denied access by the occupant.  The condominium association and its property manager then retained the law offices of Goodman, Shapiro, & Lombardi to assert the condominium’s right to gain emergency access to the unit.   Upon the arrival of GSL Attorney Mary-Joy Howes, as well as a property manager and Providence Animal Control officers, the unit owner was then cooperative, and access to the unit was voluntarily granted.

The unit owner, pointing to numerous cat scratches on his arms, stated that he had personally removed many of the cats within the last 24 hours, giving them to family and friends.  Animal Control, however, observed additional health and safety issues at the unit and, according to protocol, the building inspector was then notified.  Upon arrival of the Dept. of Inspection and Standards, a decision was made to begin condemnation proceedings.

This particular association is understandably concerned about the well-being of its unit owners, and it has been working with GSL and its property manager to ensure that this matter is resolved in the quickest and most efficient manner by the appropriate parties.

Whether it’s cats or dogs, condo associations should plan responsibly regarding regulations for pets, and they should also ensure that these pets stay in check…and not bite into the legal rights of other unit owners.


Stay tuned for Mary Joy Howes’  upcoming, related article about emergency access.  For more information about the topic, contact Mary-Joy at or visit