You have a dog and you live in a condo. You need to walk your dog and your dog, male or female, is likely to pee on the condo property. Should this be a problem? It could be.
Recently, a dog owner in another state (Michigan) was fined $150 for three to four brown spots from dogs eliminating on the lawn. According to the account, there are other dog owners in her building. There are other dog owners who walk dogs near this person’s unit.
Could this happen in California? If you got a board that is unfriendly to pets, or at least, unfriendly to your pets, then the answer is yes.
Nitrogen-burn is caused by an excess of nitrogen salts. Usually nitrogen in the soil is a good thing, but when the nitrogen is concentrated, it causes the leaves to die and turn brown. All animals have their excess nitrogen removed by their kidneys and it is expelled in their urine. You might have a bigger problem with female dogs because of their habit of squatting in one area, while male dogs tend to spread their urine around to mark their territory, but some male dogs squat as well.
Actually, the nitrogen burn is helpful for trees because you don’t really want the grass coming up to the trunk. A nice margin around a tree that is bare soil or better yet, soil with a mulch to prevent excess transpiration, allows the tree to get more water that a lawn might soak up instead. For this reason, dogs urinating on a tree helps clear a spot.
However, there’s the matter of a lawn. If, even in this time of water conservation, your homeowners association insists on having a lawn, you might want to insure that the contract with the gardeners includes regular maintenance such as annual re-seeding and re-sodding.
Some grasses are more resistant to nitrogen burn such as fescue and perennial ryegrass. Kentucky bluegrass and Bermuda grass are the types of lawns that are the least resistant. When a lawn is being re-seeded, you can ask that fescue and perennial ryegrass seeds are used. Regular lawn care should include aeration (spring), treatment for grubs (early summer), and dead grass removal and reseeding (early fall). If your landscape contract includes all of this and it should, then the dog-related urine burns should be taken care of once a year.
There are things you can do to help. When your dog urinates, you can water the area immediately to dilute the urine. You can also make sure your dog gets plenty of water. A dehydrated dog has urine that is more concentrated in nitrogen.
There are also dog-related treatments you can get at your local pet store. In the case of a HOA, you’d have to treat all the dogs and you’d probably want to consult with your veterinarian first. This might not be practical.
Other causes of dead patches
If you see brown spots, particularly in the early summer in some areas, grubs can be the culprit. These c-shaped white worms are the larvae stage of various beetles. They are most likely to be around in June. You can treat with a milky spore instead of chemicals.
It might be hard to prove that it is actually your specific dog that has caused the nitrogen burn. If there are more than one person in your condo unit who owns a dog, then you need to check and see if that person is being fined. If you know that other people walk their dogs near the areas, then you need to check and see if these people have also been fined.
In the case that you are the only person being fined, then you can contest the fine in a board hearing or in small claims court on the basis that there is no proof that your specific dog is the culprit. Living in proximity is only circumstantial evidence and even a photograph will only show your possible responsibility for one specific burn spot, however, dogs often over-mark other dogs.
If all of the owners are being fined, then this is guilt by association and it possibly also violates civil code 1366.1 regarding no excessive fees.
Excessive fertilizer can also cause nitrogen burn. Fall or spring is when lawns should be fertilized (depending upon your weather) and if your lawn care person isn’t fertilizing at all, then your dogs are actually doing a community service. Lawns need to be fed once a year. When the soil suffers from a lack of nitrogen the lawn will become less dense, older leaves will turn light green, the roots will grow slower and the lawn will be more susceptible to diseases like dollar spot and red thread.
Nitrogen actually helps a lawn maintain its green color and contributes to growth and density, makes the lawn more heat, cold and drought hardy and less susceptible to disease. The thought that dog urine is something totally negative is incorrect.
Dogs, of course, aren’t the only animals who urinate on grass. Cats, rabbits (domestic or wild), and raccoons all could cause nitrogen burn although carnivores urine has a higher nitrogen content. In our former HOA, small dogs easily wandered through the gates until a low 36-inch mesh was installed.
You can ask that a specific place be designated for pet urination Some airports now have designated spots, often surrounded with gravel and a fake fire hydrant in the center. A rock or bird bath might do the trick although excessive birds might bring another problem along.
Remember, civil code 1360.5 allows each HOA member/owner to have at least one pet. The new civil code 4715 extends those protections. If your HOA allows dogs, it also should allow reasonable accommodations for the presence of dogs.