Does Resident Need to Keep Eight Dogs as a Reasonable Accommodation?

A New York City co-op board sued a shareholder resident for violating her proprietary lease by keeping eight dogs and two cats in her apartment. This created noise and odors that other residents complained about. The co-op board didn't seek eviction but sought removal of five of the eight dogs.

The resident argued that she was disabled after suffering a stroke at a young age. She also suffered from major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Her doctor said that she needed all the animals to prevent her from becoming suicidal. The resident asked the court to dismiss the case without a trial. She claimed that the co-op board had waived its right under the city’s pet waiver law to object to the dogs by not seeking removal within three months after she acquired each one. She also claimed that she needed all the animals as a reasonable accommodation for her disability.

The court ruled against the resident. A trial was needed to determine the facts. The co-op board and the resident were subject to the New York City pet waiver law, requiring the resident to show that she had openly and notoriously harbored a pet, that the co-op board knew about the pet, and that the board failed to sue the resident within 90 days to seek removal of a pet. There was a dispute as to whether the co-op’s staff knew the resident had more than three dogs as she walked them three-at-a-time, and also walked some of her neighbor's dogs. And each dog was subject to a separate determination of whether the co-op board had waived a right to object.

The resident also argued that the co-op board hadn't demonstrated that she created a nuisance. But the board didn't file a nuisance claim. It claimed that the resident violated provisions of her proprietary lease by letting her dogs create unreasonable noise and annoyance to other residents, and by failing to maintain hygiene in the apartment. The building's house rules also called for supervision of pets and required residents to seek permission to keep pets. The resident failed to show that she didn't violate the lease.

The co-op board didn't dispute that the resident was disabled, and her doctor claimed that she needed all eight dogs. But the resident hadn't demonstrated that permitting her to keep eight dogs was a reasonable accommodation for her disability. There were no court cases cited where a landlord had to permit a person with disabilities to keep multiple emotional support dogs as a reasonable accommodation [79 W. 12th St. Corp. v. Kornblum: Index No. 154129/2017, 2020 NY Slip Op 33884(U) (Sup. Ct. NY; 11/24/20)].