No Pet Rules vs. Dogs

Written By: Marc J. Luxemburg


In the ongoing battle between no-pet rules and dogs, the legal system does not make it easy to enforce no-pet rules. In addition to the New York City Dog Law, which requires that an action to remove a dog must be commenced within 90 days of a landlord learning that a tenant has a dog, the civil rights laws protect certain dogs owned by people with disabilities.

The Fair Housing Act applies to most rental housing and most condominiums. The American with Disabilities Act, on the other hand, only applies to housing owned by a state or local government or its instrumentalities. It does not apply to private housing. The Fair Housing Act requires that an owner must make a reasonable accommodation, meaning a modification of existing building policies, necessary to afford a disabled resident an equal opportunity to use and enjoy his or her dwelling. This may include the obligation to allow the disabled person to have a dog, which may be a service animal or an emotional support animal.

Service Animals

The purpose of a service animal is to provide a particular trained skill, such as guiding the visually impaired, detecting imminent seizures, pulling wheelchairs, and so on. In order to qualify there must be evidence of individual training to set the service animal apart from an ordinary pet. An owner may require that a recognized training facility or person certify that the service animal has the type of training and temperament that would enable the service animal to ameliorate its owner's disability, and to live in the building without disturbing a person of ordinary sensibilities regarding animals, and to require the opinion of a physician who is knowledgeable about the disability and the manner in which a service dog can ameliorate the effects of the disability.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals differ because their purpose is to provide therapy to those suffering from anxiety, depression, or other psychiatric ailments. These animals need not be limited to emotional support dogs; cats, rats, and birds can also provide relief. Emotional support animals do not require specialized training. To qualify for an emotional support animal, the disabled person must be certified as emotionally disabled by a psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, or other licensed mental health professional, who must certify that the animal provides necessary emotional support to ameliorate the condition. Any other kind of doctor does not qualify because medical doctors are not specialists in mental health.

However, an owner is permitted to exclude an animal, including a service animal, if the presence of the animal unreasonably disturbs other residents, or if the animal poses a direct threat to other residents. For example, a dog that barks keeping neighbors awake at night, or attacks other residents, or is not properly housetrained and relieves itself in common areas may be excluded from the building.

about the authors

Marc J. Luxemburg

Of Counsel

Mr. Luxemburg specializes in real estate law, cooperative and condominium law. A recognized authority on the legal needs of cooperatives and condominiums, Mr. Luxemburg is the President of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums, and has drafted the revised form of proprietary lease that was promulgated by the Council.

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