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When a Co-op Board Forbidding a Dog Helped Save a Woman's Life

Tom Soter in Board Operations on August 2, 2012

New York City

Aug. 2, 2012

When the co-op board initially forbade the dog, the board president felt they had taken a principled stand in enforcing the rules. And this just wasn't some ego game. The board did not act unilaterally, showing off its power. Realizing that evicting the dog could cost money, it went before the shareholders, explained the situation and got their OK to proceed.

The board members had been suspicious, wondering why, if the woman had needed the dog so badly, she hadn't come before the board earlier and asked for an exemption to the rules. She had waited until she had been discovered before she told them about her diagnosis. When the board cracked down, the woman responded — actually, her son did — by filing a complaint with the city's Commission on Human Rights, which opened an investigation into the case.

Board Can Bring In Own Doctor

The woman could hardly take

care of herself, let alone a dog.

That's when the board asked the shareholders whether they should fight or switch. After they obtained the owners' approval, the directors had a doctor of their own examine the woman. He didn't find depression; he found Alzheimer's.

The board told the son — who apparently hadn't known — and he withdrew his complaint. It turned out that the woman could hardly take care of herself, let alone a dog.

And the board now had a concern greater than the pet: What if the woman, say, left the gas on and caused harm to herself or the property? Consulting with the son, the board worked out an agreement: She could keep the dog for six months and during that time she would either get a caregiver to assist her or move into a nursing home. Either way, the dog would be gone within six months.

"Where is justice?" asked the board president. "It was there. It was just a matter of principle." But I think it was about more than that: it was about caring and common sense and a board that did the right thing, as both directors and as human beings.


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