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Can Co-op Boards Limit the Size of Support Animals?

The Bronx

Big Dog
Oct. 17, 2019

A Bronx co-op board prohibits dogs larger than 30 pounds. When a shareholder asked if her brother could visit with his 70-pound emotional support dog, the board said no. Can a co-op board ban a support animal from visiting a shareholder because it exceeds the weight limit?

Size shouldn’t matter, replies the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times. While a board can legally prohibit a dog that poses a danger or nuisance, it cannot reject a shareholder’s request for reasonable accommodation simply because of the animal’s size. (Even buildings with strict no-pet policies allow for emotional support pets.) The same principle should hold for the shareholder’s relative and his dog, according to Darryl Vernon, a Manhattan real estate lawyer who frequently represents owners in disputes involving their pets. Federal and local disability laws covering housing protect what are known as associated people, or people associated with those living in the building. 

The Bronx shareholder should write to the board and managing agent, explaining that her brother has an emotional support animal and, as her sibling and visitor, needs to be accommodated. To alleviate the board’s anxiety about allowing such a large animal into the building, she could include details about the dog’s personality and offer a time when board members could meet the dog. She could tell the board that her visiting sibling would be courteous and, for example, not share the elevator with any anxious shareholders. The shareholder could also provide limited documentation supporting her relative’s need for a support pet. 

But all of that is courtesy. A person with a disability is legally allowed to visit the building accompanied by an emotional support pet. Staff can contact building management if it has questions. But this board is flirting with trouble for possible discrimination against a protected class.

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