Your Pet Policy vs. NYC's Human Rights Commission New Guidance Requires 'Cooperative Dialogue'

Emotional Support Animal? (Pic courtesy of PiggyStarDust/

Co-ops are infamous for the sometimes-byzantine nature of their rules, regulations and prohibitions. This is particularly true when it comes to pet or no-pet policies. Some buildings restrict pets altogether, others permit only home-bound pets such as cats or fish. There may be outright bans on exotic pets like lizards, snakes and large biting invertebrates, such as tarantulas. Some permit dogs of certain breeds, sizes, or temperaments, but not others. Then there is the rare co-op with no restrictions at all on non-human occupancy. That all may be about to change.

In June of 2018, the New York City Human Rights Commission published a 146-page guidance entitled “Legal Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination of the Basis of Disability.” The issue of both service and emotional support animals was reviewed in the document.

Service vs. Emotional Support Animals

Service animals are defined as animals that assist in everyday living. The best example would be a seeing-eye dog. An emotional support animal, on the other hand, is defined as an animal (typically a dog or cat, though this can include other species) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The guidance issued by the New York City Human Rights Commission (NYCHRC) states the following:

Housing providers are required to reasonably accommodate persons with disabilities who rely on service animals or emotional support animals by providing exceptions to 'no pet' or 'no dog' policies. A service animal is an animal that does work or performs tasks for an individual with a disability. For example, a dog that guides an individual with a visual impairment is a service animal. An emotional support animal is an animal that provides emotional support or other assistance that ameliorates the symptoms of a disability. If housing providers,” (and that includes co-ops under their proprietary leases -Ed.) “have ‘no-pets’ policies, charge pet fees, or have breed, weight, or size restrictions on pets, they must make exceptions to these policies in situations in which a resident requests to keep a service animal or emotional support animal in their housing unit due to a disability, unless doing so would cause the housing provider an undue hardship.”


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  • You made the point of an ESA being a possible danger to other residents in the building, but what about other issues of an animal, eg. a dog, that poses a noise problem for the neighbors. I would assume the required dialogue would still be necessary, yes?