What are pet owners' rights in NYC buildings?

- New York is a city of animal lovers but sometimes the city's apartment buildings aren't as pet-friendly as the people. Many landlords or co-op or condo boards don't allow pets. And even when they do, there can be size or breed restrictions.

"If you're a couple and you've just sold your big house out in Muttontown and your dream apartment is one of those towers on 57th Street, you go and find out your golden doodle is 65 pounds and he's not welcome in that building and you can't live there," said Hal Eistensten, who runs Pet Friendly Realty NYC, which helps its clients get around rules like that. "The tag line for the company is 'We keep people and their pets together.'"

What are pet owners' rights?

Darryl Vernon is an attorney and an adviser to the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals. He said many New Yorkers are unaware of something called the pet law.

"It essentially says that if you've had your pet for 3 or more months with the knowledge of any on-site employees at your building, or just kept openly and they should know, then any no-pet clause that might exist in your lease is considered unenforceable if the lawsuit wasn't started within those three months," Vernon said.

In other words, as long as you haven't been hiding your pet and a building staff member has seen it you can keep it if building management doesn't take action within the first three months you have the animal.

If you have a disability, you are also protected by anti-discrimination laws and entitled to have a service animal or an emotional support dog regardless of a building's no-pet clause.

"An emotional support dog is equally helpful, that helps people who are having mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, agoraphobia," Vernon said. "Animals in these situations can help people tremendously to get out, to be able to work."

To qualify for an emotional support animal a person must provide clinical proof of their disability from a health care provider.

"The law is that you have to have a disability and it has to be more than an impairment, it has to interfere with the performance of a major life function and the animal has to be the best modality of treatment," Eisenstein said.

Eisenstein's Pet Friendly Realty connects people who would suffer significant emotional distress if not able to live with their pets with clinicians to see if they qualify for disability diagnoses.

If you're having an issue with your landlord or co-op board and your pet, and feel like you might be the victim of discrimination, there are resources out there. You can contact the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals or you can also get in touch with a federal, state or local housing agency.

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