The Question of Dogs in Co-ops & Condos

By Stephen J. Budihas

The issue of dogs in co-ops and condominiums has always been and will probably continue to be a contentious one, and one that has frequently led to widely diverse and often contradictory rulings in the courts.  We can make certain statements with some certainty:

  • The law requires a housing provider to reasonably accommodate disabled tenants, so they can enjoy the rights and privileges of the housing; but, there is ever the underlying issue of determining whether dogs are necessary to support an individual’s handicapping condition versus dogs that are merely helpful in providing comfort. Confounding the issue is the fact that today false accreditations are widely available through websites that offer fake “certifications” for dogs – no doctor’s note required.
  • Boards should have a dog policy in place and take any requests from disabled tenants seriously. The issue of a Board’s authority to establish and enforce certain rules with regard to the possession of pets and dogs in particular presents less controversy and is generallyupheld by law.
  • The means by which any Board expresses its rulings and proceeds to enforce them often serves as the fodder for litigation, overriding the “dog” issue. If a board is engaging in good faith in the interactive process, it’s probably not going to be held liable for its decisions — which are protected by the Business Judgment Rule unless the board is found to be discriminating against the disabled.
  • Often, the precise legal manner in which attorneys represent the issue before ruling authorities determines the outcome – thereby avoiding the issues presented by either party, altogether.

It is difficult to offer guidance under these prevailing circumstances, and so a number of recent rulings are cited here for reference.  READ CASE SUMMARIES