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PAWS DOWN, TAILS UP Co-op or Condo what makes a pet worthy of moving in

Fitness trainers are now becoming a norm for both the out-of-shape and the hyper-fit dog. Treadmills are prevalent in doggie gyms now present in many Manhattan buildings.

Photo courtesy: Scott Francis for Related Companies

Chihuahas, ShihTzus, Yorkies, Labradors and the occasional Portuguese Water Dog - Charlie, Max Lucy, Lola and even Sabrina - are woofing it up in Manhattan as pet friendly buildings once scarce are now making up more than 75 per cent of the market for co-ops and condos according to a fourth quarter-2016 Miller Samuel survey. 5.2% do ban dogs over 50 lbs. and only 5.3% ban dogs altogether (comparatively .1% ban cats), but even though the pet policies of prestige buildings are loosening up, certainly since it’s been demonstrated that a pet-friendly apartment carries a higher market value, it can still be tricky to navigate entry.

We asked top brokers, board presidents and one of NYC’s most notable real estate attorneys to weigh in on what pet owners may encounter when looking to purchase an apartment.

Jason Walker, a leading broker with Douglas Elliman sees several lifestyle factors influencing the broader acceptance of pets in NYC and the increase in pet owners seeking to buy apartments: “America – and certainly New York City – is falling in love with pets all over again through movies, television, books, and animal charities. It’s become significantly easier to maintain a pet in your apartment than ever before.” Services proliferate to fully pamper your pet often made available by the building itself: dog walking, play groups, dog fitness trainers (with supervision a pudgy dog can be found walking on a treadmill), doggy daycare, pet chauffeurs and even cat nannies.

Doggie day spas have been a must for NYC’s pampered pets, but now they are accessible to renters as well as condo owners. Related Companies opened Dog City on West 42nd Street five years ago, offering 1,000 square feet of fun for dogs. Expanding, with even more amenities for big-city pups, Dog City offers not only day care but also training and weekly visits from groomers and veterinarians. Photo Courtesy: Scott Francis for Related Companies

$62.5 Billion (estimated by the American Pet Products Association) was spent in the US on pets last year and in NYC alone there’s a documented spend of more than $1.5 Billion and climbing. There’s no doubt about it, pets are the new children, “fur babies” as some “pet parents” call them are companions for singles opting to marry later or cute playmates – treated like siblings practically - for a young family. 65% of households own a pet with 77.8 million of those pets being dogs according to a 2015-16 APPA survey.

An associate broker with Halstead, Elaine Tross acknowledges this need for companionship, “pet owners crave the emotional support a four-legged friend can offer. Sure, there are crazy amenities now and that’s definitely attractive to a pet owner but overall there’s been a loosening up of the rules creating a climate that’s just more accepting.”

But despite the relaxation of regulations, pets are far from running wild. In fact, says David Katzive, Executive Producer, Finn Partners, former board president of his Brooklyn Heights co-op, “the biggest problem with pets is humans.” Ironically when he first moved into the building, he did not require an interview with the board but his dog did. Since then he observes there were definitely conflicts about pets, dogs in particular, noise being the biggest complaint but rarely did the board intervene, the shareholders worked it out among themselves.

Certainly, it’s a good idea to have your pet groomed and on their best behavior for a board interview or even assure the board that the pet will attend doggy daycare on a consistent basis. However, it’s an even better idea for a prospective buyer to work with an attorney before going to contract to learn the precise nature of the building’s pet policies. “What looks like a pet-friendly building may not actually be one,” cautions attorney, Kathryn A. McLaughlin, Esq. McLaughlin & Wilshinsky, P.C. “The dogs seen entering or exiting might be service dogs or grandfathered-in pets. A looser policy may have been in effect sometime before so the 12-year-old, 55 lb. Golden Retriever seen in the lobby may not be a reflection of a current policy. If the purchaser is not aware of the limitations of the pet policy and proceeds to contract only to learn that the pet is not acceptable to the board, without appropriate contingencies in place, they open themselves to the claim of default. Sadly, it can come down to a decision to move in without the pet or lose the contract deposit if the proper due diligence is not done early on.”

There are stories of true devotion though that speak to great love for four-legged residents. Seasoned Douglas Elliman broker, Joel Bross who has spent more than two decades as a board member at 125 East 84th Street (he has lived there for more than 50 years) tells of heroism in his building: “One shareholder had three Labs, while not at home, a fire broke out and the Super also a dog lover rescued the dogs, resuscitating one. The building honored the Super.” When Jason Walker was the President of his Condo board in Soho, he had a colorful mural painted in the Pet Spa consisting of the images of all dogs residing in the building.

Restrictions on weight and size are to be expected but there are restrictions on breeds including Doberman Pinchers, Pit Bulls, Rottweilers and increasingly, German Shepherds finding acceptance impossible in prestige buildings. “Weight limitations and breed restrictions,” says Kathryn McLaughlin, “do not ensure [?] a pet is well behaved.” Elaine Tross cites an example of a gentle German Shepherd who played with the children of the family but was barred by the board; the family purchased the apartment anyway but only as an investment.

The board has great leeway in determining the proper candidates for residency so there is little recourse if a pet is not accepted unless outright discrimination can be proven. However cautionary ‘tails’ aside, more and more residential buildings are actively sniffing out affluent pet owners as respectful and responsible tenants.

Author Susan Traub with her Portuguese Water Dogs

Author Lori Zelenko with her Pekingese


Lori Zelenko and Susan Traub have teamed up to reveal exclusive personal insights into the luxe life of pets in the city offered by the influencers in Manhattan’s real estate community. Each a devoted dog owner as well as an entrepreneur, Lori and Susan are mutually dedicated to improving the well-being of pets in NYC and beyond. To learn more, email

© 2017 Lori Zelenko and Susan Traub, All rights reserved

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