Why the recent dogsuit settlement was no surprise

Here’s a very relevant article forwarded to me by a neighbor, “End of an era: Why Co-ops should allow dogs.”

In it, a NYC real estate attorney explains how New York’s pet law and the Americans with Disabilities Act combine to render no-pet policies ineffective.

The attorney, Dean Roberts, describes a scenario very familiar to anyone at East River: a large post-war coop with an explicit ban on dogs started action in housing court against a new shareholder who moved in with his dog despite having signed a statement claiming he did not own one; he subsequently produced a doctor’s note stating that the dog was for emotional support; housing court sided with the dog-owner.

Says Roberts, “My client, the co-op, was stuck with a dog it didn’t want, a legal bill, and the firsthand knowledge that in New York, no-dog policies have become extraordinarily difficult to enforce.”

His legal recommendation? “Here is the somewhat counterintuitive counsel I give my co-op board clients: the deck has become so stacked against no-dog policies that the best course of action in the ’emotional support’ era is to allow some dogs.” He continues:

A restrictive policy designed to limit intrusion and disruptiveness by regulating the size, number and behavior of the dogs actually gives boards more control than a straight no-dog policy, because owners who use the “emotional support” argument are still required to comply with the limitations set by the board. While the co-op must tolerate some dogs, it can at least regulate them and their behavior … and hope that, eventually, courts will give democratically established rules their fair due.

This article was written over three years ago, which means that East River should not have been surprised that cooperators claiming psychiatric exception to our no-pet policy were ultimately allowed to keep their dogs.

Also this: the author, Dean Roberts, is an attorney at Norris McLaughlin & Marcus, the same firm that represents East River Housing in all matters except dog litigation.

legal expensesDespite the mounting evidence that no-pet policies are difficult to enforce, the coop has spent at least $1.2 million over the past four years trying to evict dog-owners. At the very least we need to acknowledge this reality: keeping East River dog-free won’t be cost-free. If it’s a priority, as it surely is for some cooperators, we need to accept that it’s going to be expensive.