Service of Will Your Pooch–or Parrot–Pass the Scrutiny of a Co-Op Board?

January 2nd, 2020

Categories: Birds, Board of Directors, Co-ops, Dogs, Pets


Decades ago I experienced a light version of Katherine Clarke’s story “So Your Dog Can Roll Over. Can It Pass a Co-op Board Interview?”  A co-op board member interviewed a tenant in our rental apartment to learn about Prunella, a mixed breed almost dachshund, before giving us the final approval for our apartment purchase. Our neighbor was insulted when that’s all they wanted to know–nothing about us. Prunella hardly ever barked. After she died, we adopted Cassie who did nothing but express her displeasure in an operatic voice when we weren’t home. So much for that.

Clarke reported: “Boards have reason to be selective as incidents like dog bites can open them up to legal liability. In some cases, boards are demanding headshots, résumés and even recommendation letters specifically for pets to protect themselves.”


She described pet owners who dressed them to the nines, brought them to a dog shrink to figure out the right balance of xanax and zoloft so they didn’t appear totally zonked, put one in a baby carriage because it had recently pulled a tendon and hid turkey in her pocket so the dog would stay in her lap. One couple buying a pied-a-terre drove 13 hours with two pets and spent the night at a pet-friendly hotel in NYC for a few minute review. Another prospective tenant borrowed her friend’s older, calmer poodle as hers had a tendency to act nut-so in front of strangers. She’s in and nobody has noticed the switch.

One prospective owner told Clarke: “My worst case scenario was that Lainie, the princess, would bark or jump on everyone and demand a tremendous amount of attention and Larry, who doesn’t hear so well, would pay no attention to us and walk all over the place. When he doesn’t like something, he will whine. And he can’t really hear you when you say, ‘Shut up, Larry.’ ”


Clarke wrote that one dog  “had to sit with a third-party ‘dog whisperer’ brought in by the board for a 10-minute evaluation, during which she [the owner] just quietly observed the pooch. Occasionally, they bring another dog into the room to test their response.”

One dog owner’s pet likes to “run through people’s legs from behind” when meeting someone new. She avoided an interview by producing sufficient information at the initial stages. She submitted a resume with photos and lists of likes–“treats, snoozing, playing fetch, tiny humans, radishes, apples and pears” and under qualifications she wrote “doesn’t shed.”

Clarke reported that “Many co-ops have banned certain more aggressive breeds. One particularly strict co-op on Lower Fifth Avenue has banned Alaskan Malamutes, Caucasian Mountain Dogs, Chihuahuas, Chow Chows, Dachshunds, Dalmatians, Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, Huskies, Jack Russell Terriers, Lhasa apsos, Old English Sheepdogs, Papillons, Pekingese, Pinschers, Pit Bulls, Presa Canarios, Rottweilers, Toy Poodles and Schnauzers, according to its rules.”

Birds are subject to scrutiny as well. One board insisted on meeting a parrot in midwinter even though the real estate agent pleaded special dispensation for fear the tropical bird would suffer in the cold in the trip to the meeting. “One particularly memorable incident, which the harrowed real estate agent ‘dubbed ‘Parrotgate,’ involved convincing the board of an Upper East Side co-op to accept a tropical four-inch-tall bird.” The agent said “No one wants to ride in an elevator with someone with a bird on their shoulder.”

I have owned and sold two co-ops and after the first swore I’d never again go near such a harrowing purchase and sale but I did. Buying and selling in certain buildings without a pet will cause extreme anxiety. Have you come across stressful unexpected hurdles in trying to buy a property–co-op, condo or private home?


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8 Responses to “Service of Will Your Pooch–or Parrot–Pass the Scrutiny of a Co-Op Board?”

  1. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    Funny story. Sort of related to your post.

    We lived in a condo in the suburbs. The master deed said NO DOMESTIC PETS.

    Moved to the city which is when I got Georgie my orange winged Amazon parrot. Not too long after we moved back to the condo in the suburbs and I got a letter. Pretty much saying you can’t have the parrot. Well…..I responded and said this….Georgie is not a domestic pet, he’s an exotic bird from South America. Take me to court. They backed right down. Bottom line is…don’t mess with me when it comes to anything with feathers!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I knew a woman who landed in court and in The New York Times to keep her dog in her apartment. I don’t recall if it was a condo or what. She claimed he was a service dog early in the life of service animals being allowed where others were forbidden. She had no disabilities that I knew of and I lost track of her so I don’t know whether she ended up keeping the dog or if she had to move.

  3. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    Service dogs don’t need to prove they’re service dogs. Don’t need paperwork but usually are identified by a vest or something that they can wear. However I’ve seen service dog paraphernalia for sale on line. It’s really hard to prove if your dog is or isn’t. According to the law they can go pretty much anywhere they want and live anywhere. I’d like to think that the dog was indeed a service dog otherwise shame on that woman. I know a lot because I have a daughter who has a legitimate service dog and has trained two dogs for service.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I realize that you can’t always see a person’s disability but I worked on projects with her, we’d talk about life, and never once did she mention a disability–not that a person needs to zip open their personal life to anyone or owe them explanations. I was slightly suspicious but then she may have been to a psychiatrist after we knew each other who recommended a service animal. I also don’t know if she knew about the rule when she adopted the dog–she didn’t always have one. When I moved in to my apartment the rules were very clear.

    We get so attached to our pets that the thought of having to give one up simply because of house rules would be enough to send anyone over the edge.

  5. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    It’s kind of like people who know someone who has a handicapped placard for their vehicle and they ask to borrow it. I have stories about that subject. So the dog might not be a service dog but an emotional support dog. I’m not 100% certain but I think the rules are different for an emotional support dog.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Bet you’re right, Helen.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    It certainly is awful to think of being separated from a beloved pet. But it is not only cooperatives or condo boards that make problems. My husband’s toy poodle’s barking during work hours when she was left unaccompanied in New York somehow resulted in a phone call from a New York City agency suggesting a possible animal abuse situation! I no longer remember how it was addressed, but I was struck by the power of discontented cooperative owners to interfere in the lives of others. I wondered if the person who contacted the city agency did so every time any noise from the street, the inner courtyard which bordered on multiple buildings or other apartments disrupted her peace and quiet. In addition to all the other considerations referred to in your exchanges, we have to note that not everyone is meant to live in an urban setting or a multifamily unit. All such choices require the understanding that there are limits to what one can demand or control!

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Glad that that person didn’t live in the apartment we shared with Cassie Dog. I tried all the tricks to get her to stop barking when she was alone. I was lucky that the plaster walls were thick in that well made building, that most tenants near us worked and that the neighbors didn’t report her.

    We would take her to a wonderful place in Pennsylvania when we left for vacation even though it was inconvenient. The kennel owner was better to the dogs than to herself. Where they stayed it was air conditioned while her home wasn’t. When we picked up Cassie after her stay she jumped with glee to see us and then would lean happily against the dog caretaker.

    She told us she knew that Cassie was an apartment dog. She was the only one that didn’t bark when she entered the kennel and the only one that made a ruckus when she left.

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