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When a Neighbor Brings Home a Pit Bull

January 2017

Ask Real Estate

By Ronda Kaysen

Q. I am the president of the board of a co-op in East Harlem, Manhattan, that permits dogs of any size or breed. But after a rental tenant got a pit bull, the board received several complaints from residents who say the dog whines and pounds the floor. One is terrified of the breed and complains almost daily, calling for the dog to be removed. What am I supposed to do? I don’t think the dog can be removed just because of the stereotypes surrounding its breed. But how do I tell the pet owner that she must keep her dog quiet?

A. Because your co-op has a permissive pet policy, pit bulls can live in your building. So this dog “will be calling this apartment home,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a Manhattan real estate lawyer.

The board could explain to the anxious neighbor that pit bulls are not inherently more aggressive than other breeds. “From my experience of seeing thousands of dogs a year, would I be more worried about a pit bull than other breeds? No,” said Andrea Arden, a Manhattan dog trainer. “I work with a lot of golden retrievers who bite people.

Still, the dog owner has to be a responsible neighbor and caretaker. As a courtesy, she and her pit bull could avoid sharing an elevator with the skittish neighbor. “While we love our dogs, not everybody around us feels the same way,” Ms. Arden said.

The owner should also address the excessive whining and barking, which could be signs of stress or boredom. “The dog is saying, ‘I’m not feeling good,’” Ms. Arden said.

Mr. Bailey advised that the board talk to the tenant. Her lease probably requires 80 percent carpeting. Carpets with thick padding could muffle the sound of scurrying puppy feet. As for the whining and barking, the tenant could hire a dog walker or schedule dog day care to help the dog work off its excess energy. A dog trainer could help her modify the dog’s behavior.

If the noise continues unabated, it could violate the neighbors’ warranty of habitability, a state statute. At that point, the board could take action against the owner of the apartment and the tenant.

Now might be a good time to revisit the building’s pet policy so that there are fewer surprises the next time someone brings home a new pet.

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