Pets or Pests? Dealing With Companion Animals

Whether they consider themselves dog people, cat people or exotic bird people, many New York City residents own companion animals. New Yorkers may love their furry or fine-feathered friends but not all association boards and managers are quite as enthused about pets.

That's because with pets, can come problems—especially for those living in tight multifamily spaces. It can be difficult for condo boards and management to balance residents’ rights to keep companion animals against the impact those animals may have on value, maintenance and community relations. And it's not just a matter of personal preference; there are laws in place protecting the rights of residents, and coupled with the rules and regulations that boards and buildings may have created to protect themselves, determining which takes precedence can sometimes be a little tricky.

Know the Rules

It’s crucial for pet owners—or people who plan to become pet owners in the future—to understand the relevant laws for both their municipality and their building so that they aren’t taken by surprise and possibly forced to give up a pet.

“One of the most heart-breaking situations we face at the ASPCA is when tenants are forced to relinquish their pets due to no-pet provisions in their buildings,” says Michelle Villagomez, New York City legislative director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “These individuals must make the terrible choice of either relinquishing the animal to an already overburdened animal shelter system, or risk losing their housing. In addition, the ASPCA’s adoptions department must deny untold numbers of potential adopters of an animal due to ‘no pet’ provisions in their leases.”

The biggest law protecting New York City residents who have pets is what's commonly known as the New York City Pet Law. “The Pet Law applies to renters in multiple dwellings—buildings with three or more apartments. It can be interpreted to apply to cooperatives as well—as long as they have more than three residential units—because they have proprietary leases,” Villagomez says.

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