Dogs on the Estate and More Specifically, the Golf Course –
the issue of democratically reflecting the wishes of owners, leading to a practical solution.
Prepared by Brett and Julie Ellway, and Piet Kruger
Both Piet Kruger and ourselves have had our dogs accompanying us when on the golf course for several years without complaint. In our case, our dog originally walked the course with us but since this proved a step too far for some, of late has involved the dog riding in the golf cart, jumping out to watch a shot and then getting back in the cart – much to the amusement of onlookers, I might add. As I understand it, Piet’s dog never even gets out of the cart so I feel sorry that he has been dragged into this at all – surely, the contents of a man’s cart are like the content of his sandwiches or trousers – his own business! We have not brought the dogs on at busy times or during competitions. Either way, common sense has prevailed and all has been well and life has been good all round. In fact, the practical, laissez faire approach of the estate that recognised that our particular dogs were in no way a nuisance was one of the reasons we bought here. However, in recent weeks, there has, as we understand it, been one or two “complaints”; we do not know who has instigated this, nor the basis of them, let alone how we can possibly have been affecting the person/persons.
This, in some ways, is a good thing in that it shows that the issue is a minor one i.e. a minority of complaints over 4 years compared to literally hundreds of people who have derived pleasure from seeing the dogs and who are now extremely annoyed at the fact that it appears that “the squeaky wheel is being oiled” i.e. one person complaining and then everyone having to accommodate their wishes. (We had an incident where one incredibly rude, apparently drunk woman harangued us at the driving range, shouting and screaming, though we weren’t anywhere near her. As a result, we believe she may well be the cause of the problem). Another interesting point raised by Pete is as follows:
“From our house overlooking the 15th fairway we often observe very bad behaviour by some players and reporting this to the Pro Shop does not seem to have any effect. I can happily state that Sadie and Illies are definitely not, and will never be, part of such blatant transgressions of basic golf etiquette.”
However, since the matter has been raised, we will address all of the possible issues in order to find a solution. The very fact that we have taken the time and trouble to research these issues fully serves not only to assist in the making of proper rules, but also that the matter is important to us aswell as a lot of other property owners. We trust that if any decisions are to be made, “the powers that be” will give the same weight of consideration to this issue. We have provided a list of source material that is extensive but not exhaustive and certainly does not fully detail the amount of care that has gone into this research.
Therefore, the purpose of this document is to examine all points of contention and resolve them.
1. “We already have rules that cover this.”
This is no argument whatsoever; this country has had many rules that restricted what the democratic majority could and couldn’t do. The rules may well have simply come from a template without due diligence and consideration, or simply they seemed appropriate at the time, but they do not reflect what is now appropriate.
In the LCE constitution, one of the responsibilities of the Liaison Committees is to:
11.1.8 canvas Members’ ideas, concerns and constructive inputs;
I would also draw your attention to the section on the Code of Conduct:
The Code of Conduct is not intended to create a bureaucratic, regulatory environment, but rather, to promote and enhance our Club Values.
Each section of this Code of Conduct is designed to promote honesty, civility and equality and to serve as a constant reminder to members to show due consideration to fellow members, visitors and employees of the Club sharing in our wonderful facilities.”
I would ask that the small minority that take issue with our dogs being on the course should show due “consideration” to our wishes – particularly when we are not interfering with their pleasures.
It has been suggested to me that, “Well we have to have a rule and it’s simpler just to ban dogs”. This is clearly unacceptable: we cannot allow ourselves to sink to the lowest common denominator – if that were the case, we would ban alcohol, simply because a minority occasionally drink too much, for which we have far more evidence than any of the issues that have been alleged against having our dogs on the course.
Obviously, where those rules are obsolete, they should be reviewed. This is clearly one of those occasions as this document will demonstrate.
An interesting parallel is cell phones; the rules state:
“The discreet use of cell phones is permitted on the club premises but members are requested to exercise good manners and consideration to fellow members.”
So, this is common sense, in the same way that there are certain things that require no rules at all: eg there is no specific rule that covers “No taking practice swings in the bar!”
Are we to assume that dog owners do not possess common sense?
It has also been suggested that our presence may encourage many others to do the same. Apart from the fact that over 4 years, there is no evidence to suggest this, in reality the opposite may be true; many people have commented, “I would love to bring my dog but he would chase the balls etc so I just couldn’t”.
Similarly, we have in our community young children like Eric Venter who, at 10 years old, is young to be on the course but he is clearly more than welcome and indeed has every right to be there because he is trained in both the skills and etiquette of golf. Other parents don’t bring their children simply because it simply isn’t right for the child or the club. I know that there have been those who express their opinion that they have no wish to play with Eric but again, thankfully, they are in a minority, and I am sure it would be unthinkable that he be banned!
Can we also cover off the fact that we as owners always carry “doggy bags” to pick up after our dog. In addition, the dog knows full well not to chase balls, run on the greens, go in bunkers etc. These are all niceties not afforded to us by the proliferation of bok, hares, birds etc that do untold damage to the facilities.
The estate and club already have the right to refuse any individual if they think they have good cause – anti social behaviour etc. Therefore, if a member and his dog “exercise good manners and consideration to fellow members”, and demonstrate a modicum of common sense, it may be argued why do we need a rule at all – especially if it reduces the risk of creating “a bureaucratic, regulatory environment”. After all, we choose to live on the estate in spite of the rules – not because of them.
2. “Why do you want to take your dog with you?”
We could argue, “Why does anyone want to do anything?” The primary answer is very simple; enjoyment and pleasure – not just for us and the dogs, but for all those who approach us with huge, beaming smiles, so happy to see the dogs. We have had many people come out of their houses, stop their cars etc just to see our dog lie by a green and watch a putt. (I would warrant that these numbers far outweigh those that feel compelled to complain. If you are in any doubt that pet lovers outweigh their counterparts, I would draw your attention to the Euromonitor International Report 2010 (an independent global marketing institution) which found that:
- RSA has 5.3 million pet households.
- 8 million dogs
- 2 million cats
- 85% of pet owners say that their pet is part of the family,
- 57% say that their pet is their best friend, and
- 81% say they do not feel alone when surrounded by their pets).
They also suggest that these numbers are increasing and it of course does not reflect those that would have a pet if their domestic circumstances suited it. A further study in 2009 showed that the brain releases more oxytocin – the chemical that provides that warm and fuzzy feeling – just by glancing at a dog. Can I draw your attention to the Research document enclosed in the Bibliography of this report – Pets in the City, The Power of Pets – which was prepared by the Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) to assist people residing in higher density living to enjoy the many benefits offered by pets and specifically lists the benefits that pets provide.
If that’s not you, then each to his own but do not deny others – in this case the majority – that pleasure when it does not affect you. I don’t really see the pleasure in taking a bottle of brandy around the golf course, but I can see that others enjoy their round all the more for a little lubrication and, whilst it does not affect me, I see no reason at all to even comment.
Apart from the pleasure for us and other spectators, the dogs themselves require the mental and physical stimulation, which brings us to the issue of time. A round of golf can easily take 5 hours – longer if one stops for the customary sociable drink with one’s playing partners. This is too long to leave a dog in a house. I know that some may argue that a dog can be left in a garden but it is not simply a matter of the conditions in which they are left but the fact that they are left at all. To support this, I would draw your attention to the PDSA guidelines that state that dogs should not be left alone for more than 4 hours. It is also worth noting that a house dog is recognised by security experts as a far greater crime deterrent than one in a yard since it protects it’s owner and the confines of the house. Thus, many people would rather have a house dog and not leave it in the yard.
3. “Dogs are a danger to wildlife”
In the instance of our particular dogs, this is simply untrue – in fact quite the opposite; I am sure that those who witnessed Brutus – the over friendly bok’s repeated attempts to engage with Sadie whilst on the driving range, were intrigued to see just how disinterested she was, and that she was at far greater risk from the bok’s horns than he was from her. I have heard more concerns raised at the risk posed to us by the rising number of bok than anything regarding dogs. In addition, it is somewhat ironic that those that claim to hold the welfare of animals in such high regard would happily have us lock up our dogs and deny them the pleasure of walking on the grounds.
Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?
We have wracked our brains to play “Devil’s Advocate” to examine why people may have objections to dogs being on the course. No others have been offered to us. But it may well be that we are actually not part of the problem and those actively pursuing an anti pet policy are actually a far greater problem – albeit unwittingly. Let us look at the counter arguments – the very notion that allowing dogs may be a positive attribute to our community. As background to this, I would urge interested parties to read the following article as to why a club chose to relax it’s rules regarding dogs on the course and the positive results they experienced: http://gopetfriendlyblog.com/golfing-with-your-dog-in-maine/
For those short of time, I have highlighted the following comment:
“Do you think being pet friendly has helped or hurt your business?
We have not experienced any problems by allowing dogs on the course. Owners love having their dogs with them, and are very respectful about picking up after their pets and not allowing rough-housing on the greens or other delicate turf areas. We probably receive more positive emails and comments about being pet-friendly than for any other detail on our course.”
Dogs are readily accepted on many other golf courses – including many with a greater pedigree (sic) than we have enjoyed to date: http://images.supersport.com/galleries/GPI3_Big1.jpg
Take a look at the Gary Player invitational at Fancourt.
Indeed, St Andrew’s – the home of golf – has no issue with dogs.
Sunningdale, The Berkshire etc all welcome dogs.
Stoke Park, the Wyatt-designed pile near Slough where they filmed the golf game in Goldfinger. “We have about three members who bring dogs,” said the professional, “They don’t bother anyone, and we see no reason to stop them.” Well said, Stoke Park.
Tom Watson plays with his dogs on his course…the list is endless.
Please take the time to read the following article from Golf Digest
But apart from accepted, it is actively encouraged by the more forward – thinking clubs. Let us examine why:
Referring back to the plethora of statistics, it is indisputable that dog lovers are in the majority. Therefore it stands to reason that you would attract more visitors to the club if we had a more pet friendly approach.
Cf Belgrade Lakes Golf Club which is recognised in Golf Magazine’s top 100 public courses, five star rating from Golf Digest, #1 course in Maine . They stated,
“We focus on providing an exceptional experience for all of our guests. Being pet-friendly is one more way we can meet the needs of our golfers and ensure that they have a memorable visit to Belgrade Lakes Golf Club.”
As a case in point, I am considering not renewing my prepaid membership since I will simply be unable to play as much golf and it is not encouraging Julie to play more frequently. I know Piet feels the same. Not only are we denied a pleasure, but it is simply not practical: if we spend 4 – 5 hours on the golf course without the dog, we cannot then go out for the evening as well. Therefore, we go to Vredenburg, play there and then go out – revenue that is lost to the club and the bar!
Increased Property Values:
Currently, the Estate itself cannot be described as pet friendly, one of the primary reasons being the “no replacement” policy. Although this widely disregarded, that serves only further to demonstrate it’s obsolescence as a draconian and cruel clause. I am not sure whether we would ever replace our dog as she is somewhat special, as those that have met her would agree, but if we did, that is a matter for us – not the Estate, since it does not change the status quo. Ours is not the only scenario to consider here: imagine your child’s pet is run over; the child is obviously distraught but there is nothing you can do to ease that pain because of an Estate rule. You are left to tell the child that you only get one chance at having a pet and now you have lost that chance to enjoy all the benefits that would have brought. All the best explaining that one.
Likewise, the Estate is due to build a retirement village to add to those who are retired already here. My wife knows from her own experiences with her mother that, when she lost her husband, a huge source of comfort was when we helped her buy a dog as a companion who is now her life.
Do we really want a rule that denies someone these benefits? Is that who we are as a community? Does that reflect “our values of Integrity Respect Fairness”?
Again, think of the statistics: the current approach deters many potential buyers/renters from considering spending their cash in our community. (I know we were extremely reticent before buying for this very reason but it appeared we had come to a common agreement that has now been rescinded). As such, rather than protecting my investment, the current stance is directly precluding us from a huge marketplace. This is not pure conjecture; studies were done in Australia regarding pet-friendly schemes, and it was found that people are willing to pay up to 10% more for property in such a scheme as opposed to those that do not allow pets, with agents reporting that they created 50% more buyer interest. RSA estate agents (eg Pam Golding, Lew Geffen/Sothebys etc) have indicated the same hold true in SA.
Which brings us to a point of law: one of the duties of the Trustees for a Body Corporate (i.e. us, the owners) is to manage Conduct Rules in accordance with the Sectional Title Act to the benefit of all owners, and to have a rule in place which is detrimental to this basic duty, is contrary to the Sectional Title Act.
In short, it may be argued that having non pet – friendly rules is not only detrimental to our property values but against the law because of that fact.
In addition, if the HOA or developer rides roughshod over the wishes of the democratic majority, the estate earns itself a reputation as being the very “bureaucratic, regulatory environment” it claims it wishes to avoid. It hardly reflects a “live and let live”, relaxed, West Coast living style.
If you doubt the reality of this, it has long been proven that 8/10 people will pass on something that they consider to be negative, whilst only 2/10 will relay the positive.
From our own experience, in recent weeks when we have been seen without the dog, we are inevitably asked the question, “Where’s Sadie?” On receiving the explanation, I can assure you it is not seen as a positive step, and some members are quite vitriolic about the matter and rumour is rife as to who is behind it all. It has even been suggested that the reason she is banned is because she has occasionally been seen to retrieve ball o the driving range and therefore we are getting more balls than we paid for! I admit, on a quiet day, I do let her fetch the balls that are in the rough at the far right where the machine cannot pick up, and for which Richard is very grateful!
Let me also be clear: we have not thrown fuel on this issue: put plainly, we find it very stressful and want to be left alone.
Conclusions and Solutions
I think we can agree that no fair – minded individual can really believe that our particular dogs are a problem in any way to any individual and they probably have to accept that allowing the dogs on the golf course brings a tremendous amount of pleasure to us, the dogs and those that see us. As such, the ban is completely out of kilter – allowing the intolerance of a few to outweigh the wishes of many (to paraphrase Spock’s dying words in Star Trek!)
On a broader scale, I believe we have demonstrated that there may be very good cause to review the current rules, not simply to accommodate the wishes of the majority, nor simply to abide by the values that those rules are designed to uphold, nor even to potentially increase the value of our investments, but maybe even to comply with the responsibilities of the Trustees and the Sectional Title Act.
However, this doesn’t mean the end of life as we know it, the tearing up of the existing rules and starting again etc:
- Permitting some residents to have their dogs accompany them does not mean that everyone need be allowed this privilege. Owners need to demonstrate themselves (and their dogs) to be responsible.
- The course is not likely to be overrun with animals not just because dog owners do have common sense but simply from a question of numbers – a Queensland survey of pet-friendly developments found that only around 10% of occupants owned dogs. Perhaps the HOA could answer this question specifically.
- Berkshire Golf Club members may bring their dogs, but visitors must ask permission from the club secretary. “In this way, badly behaved dogs can be discouraged, and there is no need for a blanket ban that takes away the delight a dog provides,” writes finegolf.co.uk.
- Policies can be introduced to determine how owners conduct themselves with their dog, ensuring that there will be no nuisance caused for other facility users.
Whilst the potential solutions are endless, I believe in keeping things simple; we can either:
1. Undertake a full review of the rules pertaining to this issue, canvassing home owners, holding meetings, debating, involving lawyers where necessary etc which in itself is not particularly appealing – after all, we all have better things to do like walking the dog, playing golf etc (preferably together!) but it is something we are prepared to undertake if it ultimately makes our lives happier as a result.
2. Pass a Special Resolution that allows dogs on the course subject to certain conditions (see above)
3. Grant an exemption that allows us to apply for a special course dog licence. If a fee needs to be applied, so be it and it may be somewhat appropriate for that fee to be 760 Rand. I am sure golfers will acknowledge the humour in this since, in matchplay, the affectionate term for losing 7 and 6 is “Dog Licence” to reflect the cost (7 shillings and sixpence) of a dog licence in the UK at one time.
For those who have managed to stagger to the end of this tome, please accept our appreciation. For those that have lost the will to live during the course, we will attend any meetings held where we can share the copious amount of evidence and research that supports our quest.
We are of course open to other solutions if they are well researched and reflect the wishes of the majority of the LCE.
Many thanks. We look forward to a speedy resolution so that we can all get on with our lives.
Bibliography and Support Reading
Pets in the City Report – which was prepared by the Petcare Information and Advisory Service (PIAS) to assist people residing in higher density living to enjoy the many benefits offered by pets., and specifically lists the benefits that pets provide.
The Power of Pets
pets are good for children
• Pets help children to develop nurturing and social skills.
• Children with pets are more popular with their peers and demonstrate greater empathy.
• Children with pets have higher self-esteem.
• Young children with pets exercise more and are less likely to be overweight.
• Pet ownership in early childhood helps prevent sensitivity to allergens in later life.
pets are good for the elderly
• Pets in nursing homes are one of the few interventions capable of permanently lifting the mood of hospices and nursing homes.
• Pets boost activity levels in older people, helping to improve overall health in the elderly.
pets are good for your general health
• Pet owners are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease than non-pet owners.
• Pet owners visit the doctor and use fewer medications than non-pet owners.
• Pet owners are much less likely to die in the 12 months following a heart attack than non-pet owners.
• A study of widows found non-pet owners reported deterioration in their health after the death of a spouse, whereas pet owners did not.
pets help prevent loneliness
• Research from the University of Western Australia shows that 70.5% of pet owners reported rarely or never feeling lonely, compared to 58.3% of non-pet owners.
• 74.5% of pet owners reported finding it easy to get to know people compared with 62.6% of non-pet owners.
• People love their pets and frequently regard them as members of the family; a recent survey showed that
92% of owners reported feeling very close to their pet, 93% of owners reported feeling very satisfied with their pet and 86% of people say when things go wrong it’s comforting to be with their pet.
dogs encourage exercise
• The likelihood of achieving the recommended level of physical activity per week was seven times higher for dog owners who walked with their dog five or more times per week compared with non-dog owners.
• Dog owners reported 55 more minutes of total physical activity per week than non-owners.
pets are good for the community
• Pets encourage social interaction and improve perceptions of neighbourhood friendliness.
• People walking with a dog are more likely to have conversations with other people.
• Pets help facilitate social interactions for people with disabilities.