People living in a Lexington neighborhood have planned an emergency meeting in response to deed restrictions that prohibit them from owning 11 dog breeds, including huskies, pit bulls and Great Danes.
Homeowners in McConnell’s Trace were sent letters by the neighborhood developer detailing a reported change in an existing dog restriction, which previously referred only to unspecified “aggressive breeds,” said Josh McCurn, president of the area’s neighborhood association. Now German shepherds, St. Bernards and chows are among the list of 11 dog breeds restricted from the neighborhood.
Residents in the neighborhood organized an emergency town hall meeting for 6:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the letters detailing the restrictions, said Josh Jordan, who lives in McConnell’s Trace. The meeting is being held at Masterson Station Park shelter #3 and will be open to the public, including residents’ “furry companions,” according to a flier.
McConnell’s Trace sits across Leestown Road from Masterson Station Park.
While residents have taken to social media and news outlets to protest reported changes in the deed restrictions, developer Dennis Anderson said Monday that Anderson Communities has been prohibiting the 11 dog breeds since 2006. Deed restrictions signed since then have included the prohibited list of breeds, he said.
“We want a mother and her child to feel safe when walking to the mailbox or hiking on the Town Branch Trail,” Anderson said in an email. “We want McConnell’s Trace to be the safest place to raise a family.”
Anderson sent the Herald-Leader a copy of deed restrictions dated in 2006 that lists the 11 restricted breeds.
The letter was sent out last week at the advice of Anderson’s attorney, who recommended updating the deed of restrictions and “putting everyone on notice,” Anderson said.
Jordan provided a copy of the letter given to McConnell’s Trace residents last week that states “restrictions are now amended to include a complete list of prohibited breeds.”
“Should you already own a pit bull, Rottweiler or other restricted breed, and you live in a section where the previous Deed of Restrictions did not specifically prohibit your pet, you will be permitted to keep your dog,” the letter went on to say. “Please note, however, that all future pets must meet the breed requirements.”
Some homeowners in McConnell’s Trace did receive breed restrictions when they moved in, but others did not, Jordan said.
Jordan said the deed of restrictions he received when buying his McConnell’s Trace home in 2016 did not mention a ban on owning certain dog breeds. He said the document he was given was the deed of restrictions that were written in 2001.
The 2001 deed of restrictions, which Jordan provided to the Herald-Leader, does not mention bans on any specific dog breeds. The provided document did restrict each household from having more than three pets.
Jordan had rented from Anderson Communities before buying a house and said the breeds were listed as being prohibited in the rental agreement.
Lexington planning director Jim Duncan said restrictions like this are made through deed restrictions, which are usually set up by a developer before oversight is turned over to the homeowner’s association, he said.
“There is usually a process to change or update the restrictions involving a percentage of the membership,” Duncan said in an email. “The enforcement of the restrictions is entirely up to the membership of the association or the developer.”
In the case of the McConnell’s Trace dog ban, city government has no role in reviewing, approving or enforcing the restrictions, according to Duncan.
McCurn said the homeowner’s association did not have a vote on the restrictions and did not “write the language.”
“I've heard it from both ends of the spectrum,” McCurn said.
Since the memo was sent out, McCurn said he has heard from those who don't have pets, don’t have dogs or don’t want to be restricted in what kind of dog they can have.
“As the president, I’ve reached out to the neighbors and said I would be happy to have a one to one sit-down with them ... and relay any message to the developer,” McCurn said.
There is also a semi-annual meeting for the McConnell’s Trace Neighborhood Association scheduled in late May, according to the association’s Facebook page.
McCurn himself owns a Doberman and two other dogs, but said that to his understanding current animals and their owners would be grandfathered in.
According to the deed restrictions for McConnell’s Trace Subdivision, the banned breeds are as follows:
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Pit Bulls (including American Staffordshire Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and “any dogs containing characteristics of these breeds”)
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Great Danes
- St. Bernards
Shannon Smith, the founder of pit bull advocacy group Lexington Pit Crew, said breed restrictions are disheartening.
Smith said that issues with “bully breeds” such as pit bulls and rottweilers often are the result of human error, particularly by the owner of the dog. She admits that pit bulls and pit bull mixes are strong dogs and said that their owners have to be willing to work and train them.
“You have to be on top of your game,” Smith said. “If you have a bully breed, you do have to watch it because regardless of the situation, you’re going to be to blame.”
As for the reported ban on such breeds in McConnell’s Trace, Smith said these kinds of restrictions can also impact dogs that aren’t pit bulls or pit bull mixes at all.
“We started slapping names on dogs with big square heads, but there’s no telling without a DNA test what kind of dog they are,” Smith said. She’s repeatedly seen other mix-breed dogs, including boxer mixes, be misidentified as being full or part pit bull.
As the owner of two pit bull mixes, Smith said she has to be aware of potential bans anytime she thinks of moving.
“I’d like think that Lexington is above that,” Smith said. “But here I sit talking to you about a neighborhood implementing a ban.”