Q&A: Certain Dogs Banned from Co-op

Q Our co-op board issued a list of breeds of dogs they considered “aggressive,” which will no longer be permitted, other than those already grandfathered in. I can’t remember them all, but it must have been close to 30 breeds. They claim they got this list from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC). The residents in our building are sophisticated people, not people who abuse their pets causing them to be “aggressive” and “hostile.”

What happens if a dog, let’s say, nips a resident. Who is responsible: the coop or the dog’s owner? —Serious Dog Lover

A “It is typical for a cooperative’s proprietary lease and/or house rules to contain provisions which require the consent of the board of directors for a pet and/or give the board the right to impose pet guidelines, rules and regulations,” says Eliot H. Zuckerman, partner of the Manhattan-based law firm of Hartman & Craven LLP. “Assuming provisions to that effect are contained in the subject cooperative’s proprietary lease and house rules, then the board’s imposition of the dog policy would have been within the scope of the board’s authority. Boards of directors in New York are entitled to broad discretion under the state’s ‘business judgment rule.’ Since it seems that the board performed at least some investigation so as to establish a reasonable basis for its dog policy, it appears that the board did not abuse its discretion.

“On the other hand, any policy, including a dog policy, can generally be changed by the board as it reasonably deems appropriate. The board may very well consider a change if one or more shareholders (the larger the group, the more persuasive the request) presents clear evidence that one or more of the breeds of dog included on the list should not be prohibited.

“In the event a resident dog bites someone in the building, the owner of the dog would typically be held responsible. The cooperative generally does not have any responsibility for a dog bite, except possibly in the instance where a board is on notice of a dog’s propensity to bite and fails to take reasonable actions to diminish the likelihood of a future biting by that dog in the building.”

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