Should Buildings Ban Certain Dogs?
This week, it was reported that the co-op board of a luxury tower on Manhattan’s Upper West Side enacted a rule that will keep certain dog breeds—even mixes—out of the building due to aggressive tendencies. Pet lovers are crying foul, but do residential and commercial owners and property managers have a point in banning specific breeds?
In the case of 170 West End Ave, according to DNAInfo, a vet must sign off on a dog’s pedigree, and if a mutt, detail the percentage of each breed or take a DNA test to determine its makeup. It’s then compared to a long list of dogs not permitted in the building due to aggressiveness, which includes even small pooches like Malteses or Pomeranians. Earlier this month, a breed-specific ban was also enacted by an HOA in Fort Worth, impacting 80 townhome residents by nixing purebred or mixed pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers and Doberman pinschers.
“The DNA test takes it to a whole new level,” notes Argo Real Estate director of client relations Cynthia Graffeo, whose firm manages 70 residential buildings in New York City and Westchester. “I’ve never seen something like that in any of my properties, especially banning smaller dogs.” However, there are rules in dog-friendly buildings that might have allergic or frightened residents. For instance, some require dogs to take a freight or service elevator, while others have a “right of way” procedure that states the dog and owner must wait for an empty cab. Other buildings have rules that, even if a dog is friendly, it must be muzzled when in a common area. And some assets ban specific breeds outright, particularly ones known to be more aggressive or bred for security purposes.
Here are the top 11 riskiest dog breeds for homeowners and renters based on insurance policies, according to Forbes. There are plenty of opponents to breed-specific legislation (BSL) that has been launched in various municipalities against such dogs. In 2013, even the Obama administration came out against BSL, saying, “We don't support breed-specific legislation—research shows that bans on certain types of dogs are largely ineffective and often a waste of public resources.” Certain states, including New York, Texas and Illinois, prohibit BSL and instead favor laws that identify, track and regulate dangerous dogs individually, according to the ASPCA.
According to the American Apartment Owners Association, a lease is the best protection against dog-related issues; make sure to screen the tenant thoroughly, meet the dog in question and outline the consequences of poor pet management. (Check out our recent feature on DC’s most pet-friendly apartments, including 2 M Street; its resident pooch, Emmy, is pictured with WC Smith's Holli Beckman above.) But in some situations, the AAOA suggests restricting certain dog breeds. For instance:
- Your municipality has BSL in place: This might disallow certain dogs.
- Your insurance company charges you more for some breeds: If certain dogs end up increasing your insurance costs for years, it may be best to avoid the situation entirely.
- You’re worried about liability: There have been many cases where landlords have been found liable for damages in dog attacks.
- Your own peace of mind: AAOA notes that you may not know how a dog will react to a new home or situation, or even how the tenant has raised the pet.
Last year, Bisnow conducted a poll that showed 54% of readers were in favor of allowing dogs in commercial buildings. While dogs boost morale, increase productivity and allow employees to work longer hours without worrying about leaving Rover home alone, those opposed cited potential aggression, with one reader sharing a story about a sleeping dog who got startled by a vacuum cleaner and then bit the janitor, who had to go to the ER. "Love dogs to death, but managing tenants with a bunch of dogs would be a nightmare for property management teams," replied one respondent.
Mike Gochman, a partner in Transwestern’s NYC office, has noticed that across the board, Class-A and most Class-B office buildings in Manhattan won’t allow dogs, period—they want to retain a business-like decorum. (Perhaps we'll talk about office chickens in a future issue; right now, they'll stay on the Fresh Direct truck outside of his office.) It’s not as cut and dry with some Class-B, Class-C or smaller buildings that attract creative tenants; there, landlords and tenants are more relaxed about dogs, as long as they’re behaved. A few years ago, Mike repped a midsized law firm whose name partner worked a lot on weekends and wanted to take the dog in. It was a weak part of the economic cycle, he says, and the landlord wanted the tenant—so they introduced a “Fido clause” in the lease that only permitted the partner’s dog. While there were no directions about the breed, it noted that the dog was strictly the owner’s responsibility if anything happened.