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Pet Legal Questions & Answers

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Elinor D. Molbegott, is an attorney who maintains a law practice devoted to animal law. Elinor donates her time to answer questions North Shore Animal League America supporters who would like to learn more about animal law.
Elinor wil field as many questions as she can and they will be posted here on this site. Due to the volume of questions received, not all questions are answered. However, many individuals have similar questions. You may find helpful information in the categories listed below.

Featured Question

Other, Housing:

Q:

I hired a realtor to find me an apartment that accepted dogs. The listing on the computer says that the building indeed accepted dogs. The day I went to sign the lease the lease claimed that dogs were not allowed. I was still advised by the realtor to sign the lease and did so out of desperation, we were homeless. There are dogs on every floor of my building and some just as big as my dog if not bigger. I've lived here 6 months now and the landlord sent me a notarized letter from the courts to get rid of the dog or face eviction. I got the dog registered as an emotional support dog online and read online if I keep a dog openly and notoriously and the landlord or his employee know about the dog and don't decide to take legal actions within 3 months then the rule is not enforced and they waive the right for me to keep him. Is this true? How should I proceed?

Read Full Answer...
A:

NYC pet law provides that that if a tenant keeps a pet or pets openly with the knowledge of the landlord (owner) or owner's agent, and the owner does not commence a legal proceeding within 3 months to enforce a no-pet lease provision, the no-pet lease provision is waived for that pet(s). (NYC Administrative Code, § 27-2009.1). Sometimes after tenants (or their attorneys) remind landlords of this law, the landlord will not proceed any further (but sometimes landlords commence legal actions anyway---although they do not always win!). Westchester has a similar law. There are also laws that protect people with emotional support or service animals. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), if a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity and the animal works, provides assistance, or performs services for such person, or provides emotional support that "alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability," the housing provider must make an exception to a "no-pets" rule or policy. It is often helpful for tenants to get a letter from their health care provider that makes it very clear that the animal is medically necessary. According to HUD rules, housing providers should evaluate requests for assistance animals as follows:

(I) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability - i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability?

People who believe that they are being discriminated against for having emotional support or service animals can file a complaint with HUD (www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm, 1-800-669-9777).

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Most Recent Other Inquiries:


Can landlord legally evict me if dog is certified for emotional support?
Q:

I hired a realtor to find me an apartment that accepted dogs. The listing on the computer says that the building indeed accepted dogs. The day I went to sign the lease the lease claimed that dogs were not allowed. I was still advised by the realtor to sign the lease and did so out of desperation, we were homeless. There are dogs on every floor of my building and some just as big as my dog if not bigger. I've lived here 6 months now and the landlord sent me a notarized letter from the courts to get rid of the dog or face eviction. I got the dog registered as an emotional support dog online and read online if I keep a dog openly and notoriously and the landlord or his employee know about the dog and don't decide to take legal actions within 3 months then the rule is not enforced and they waive the right for me to keep him. Is this true? How should I proceed?

A:

NYC pet law provides that that if a tenant keeps a pet or pets openly with the knowledge of the landlord (owner) or owner's agent, and the owner does not commence a legal proceeding within 3 months to enforce a no-pet lease provision, the no-pet lease provision is waived for that pet(s). (NYC Administrative Code, § 27-2009.1). Sometimes after tenants (or their attorneys) remind landlords of this law, the landlord will not proceed any further (but sometimes landlords commence legal actions anyway---although they do not always win!). Westchester has a similar law. There are also laws that protect people with emotional support or service animals. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), if a person has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity and the animal works, provides assistance, or performs services for such person, or provides emotional support that "alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability," the housing provider must make an exception to a "no-pets" rule or policy. It is often helpful for tenants to get a letter from their health care provider that makes it very clear that the animal is medically necessary. According to HUD rules, housing providers should evaluate requests for assistance animals as follows:

(I) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability - i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person's existing disability?

People who believe that they are being discriminated against for having emotional support or service animals can file a complaint with HUD (www.hud.gov/complaints/housediscrim.cfm, 1-800-669-9777).


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
Is puppy contract barring breeding valid?
Q:

The puppy contract states that we promise not to use the dog for breeding. There is no penalty listed for violating the clause or contract in general. Is the statement valid?

A:

A contract does not need to have a specific penalty clause in order to be valid. I suggest you get the dog spayed/neutered anyway. Spaying/neutering not only help to curb the serious overpopulation of dogs and cats but also provide health benefits.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
My son's girlfriend stole my dog while in Georgia.
Q:

I live in Vermont and bought a dog. I have bill of sale and vet record. My son brought the dog to Georgia. His girlfriend was living with him and he had the dog there for 2 days. She decided to move out and took my dog with her. How do I get my dog back?

A:

People who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld can commence a civil lawsuit (replevin action) to try to get their animals returned. The police can also be contacted (they enforce pet theft laws) but will not typically get involved in pet custody disputes involving friends and family members. Of course, it is always simpler to try to more amicably resolve these disputes whenever possible.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
How to get my two puppies back?
Q:

My son took my two puppies and gave them away. They're mine and the people that have them won't give them back. Legally the pups belong to my husband and I, our female dog had the litter. And the two pups is all she had. I'm so upset about it they're my babies. Part of our family. Please help me?!?

A:

People who believe that their animals are being wrongfully withheld can commence a civil lawsuit (replevin action) to try to get their animals returned. The police can also be contacted (they enforce pet theft laws) but will not typically get involved in pet custody disputes involving family members.


Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott
What are my rights to keep dog I've been fostering?
Q:

Fostering a dog for a rescue, I never signed a contract or foster application. They are demanding dog back, been with me 2.5 months. Dog taken from shelter under rescue name, but I never signed anything. What are my rights? Do I have to give her back? Rescue never contacted me until Thursday, dog not fixed, month behind in heartworm prevention. But they say I am unfit. Need help!! Scared for the dog! She is loved!! I need to know my rights. They don't even have my address. Threatening me with the police.

A:

Typically an animal�s foster care �parent,� as compared to an adopter, does not �own� the fostered animal. Usually a foster care agreement will contain provisions regarding the rights and responsibilities of the parties, including, for example, who is responsible for providing the animal with necessary veterinary care. It is unclear why the rescue suddenly believes you are unfit, unless its understanding was that you, not the rescue, were responsible for getting the dog spayed or neutered and giving the dog heartworm medicine. It is unclear why a rescue would give possession to a foster care �parent� without having a correct address or following up on the dog�s care for more than two months. It is difficult to say if the police will get involved. They typically will not if they believe there is just a pet custody dispute, but they might if they are convinced an animal was stolen. Sometimes individuals and organizations commence civil lawsuits for the return of an animal that they believe is being wrongfully withheld. How a court decides who �owns� an animal depends on the evidence presented (such as, was the animal only fostered and not adopted, did the rescue abandon the animal, is the animal being neglected or otherwise mistreated). I hope the dog is doing well.< /p>
Submitted by Anonymous
Answered by Elinor Molbegott

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PLEASE NOTE: Responses to legal inquiries are not meant to replace seeking legal advice from an attorney in your state. The materials in this website and any responses to questions are for informational purposes only and are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. This website, the information contained herein, and any responses to questions directed to this column are not intended to create and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely or act upon any information provided on this website or in any response to your inquiry without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.


Reminder...

      Responses to legal inquiries are not meant to replace seeking legal advice from an attorney in your state. The materials in this website and any responses to questions are for informational purposes only and are not intended, nor should they be construed, as legal advice. This website, the information contained herein, and any responses to questions directed to this column are not intended to create and do not establish an attorney-client relationship. You should not rely or act upon any information provided on this website or in any response to your inquiry without seeking the advice of an attorney in your state regarding the facts of your specific situation.