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On December 8, 2003 New York City Council Member Melinda Katz hosted a public hearing on Intro 380, which would grant stronger housing protections to pet owners, their neighbors and landlords. Intro 380 is now Intro 189 for 2004. Calls of support are still needed! While the provision regarding senior pet ownership has been removed from the new version, the rest remains the same.

Please call your council member and let him or her know that you are in favor of this bill. To find out who your city council member is, go to the council's website: or call the council at 212-788-7100. And/or, call, write or email speaker Gifford Miller and urge him to back Intro 380. His phone number is 212-786-7210 and his email is Or write him at: Speaker Gifford Miller, Council of the City of New York, 250 Broadway, NY, NY. You can also call, write or email Council member Madeline Provenzano, Chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee and let her know you back this bill. Phone: 212-788-7375 or email:


Loophole in NYC housing law gets Waldo Evicted
By Elinor Molbegott

The fate of Waldo, a 10-pound Cairn terrier, and countless other pets is in the hands of the City Council.

Waldo and numerous other animals have been displaced because of no-pet lease clauses, even when their guardians have kept pets in their apartments for years. Although New York City law protects tenants from being evicted for keeping pets once their landlord has failed to enforce the no-pet clause in their lease, recent court decisions have held that the law doesn't cover people-such as Waldo's human guardian, Larry Ostrow-who get new pets when their old one dies.

Intro 380, introduced by Councilmember Melinda Katz (D-Queens), would allow Waldo and other similarly situated animals to return home. It would amend the city's pet law (section 27-2009.1 of the Administrative Code), so that landlords cannot continuously use no-pet clauses against tenants each time a tenant gets a pet. Intro 380 also states that people aged 62 or older cannot be denied occupancy in or be subject to eviction from a multiple-dwelling apartment on the sole ground that they keep companion animals. (Neither this bill nor the current law protects animals who create a nuisance.)

The city's pet law, enacted in 1983, provides that where a tenant in a multiple dwelling openly keeps a pet for three months or more with the knowledge of the owner or his agent, any no-pet provisions in the lease are considered waived if the landlord doesn't take action to enforce them within those three months. Until the last few years, the courts interpreted this to mean that once the no-pet clause was waived, it was waived for the duration of the person's tenancy in the apartment. Thus, a tenant could get another pet, without fear of eviction, once the three-month period lapsed for the first pet without action by the landlord.

But starting in 1996 with the case of Park Holding Company v. Emicke, the pet law has been interpreted to allow owners the right to enforce no-pet clauses against tenants when they get a new pet. This applies even if the tenant has or had previously kept another animal in the same apartment for more than three months. This means that tenants who have had pets for years in the same apartment with the landlords' knowledge are not protected when they get a new pet.

That interpretation has caused widespread hardship and confusion, as tenants who have had pets for long periods of time naturally assume that they can get another pet after one dies. This was the case with Waldo's human guardian, Larry Ostrow, who had a dog in his Upper East Side apartment for the more than 20 years he lived there. In fact, when Ostrow moved into his apartment, his landlord verbally gave him permission to have a dog. However, since Waldo was with Ostrow for less than three months when the landlord started eviction proceedings two years ago, the court found in favor of the landlord and ordered Ostrow to either move or remove Waldo. Ostrow felt that he had no place else to go, as his neighbors had become his family and his rent was affordable. Waldo is now residing with one of his friends. Ostrow visits and walks Waldo each day.

Ostrow and other rent-stabilized tenants who have lived in their apartments for many years usually pay considerably less rent than their new neighbors. This makes it profitable for landlords to get these tenants out. The no-pet clause is a vehicle to attempt to do that.

Numerous studies indicate that pets can be beneficial to the physical and emotional well-being of their human guardians. According to a 2001 report from the Mayo Clinic, people with pets are more active and less likely to be depressed than their peers without pets, and pets have been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Congress recognized the importance of the human-animal bond when it enacted a law allowing public-housing residents to have pets. Yet, tenants in private apartments who can derive the same benefits are frequently denied this opportunity, and are often targets of subjective enforcement of no-pet clauses. "Denying older adults the right to own a pet is part of the whole pattern of injustice foisted on them," says Purdue University professor Alan Beck, an authority on the human-animal bond. "We owe it to the elderly to develop laws and guidelines that will prolong their days and improve the quality of their daily lives."

Also worth considering is the fact that more than 40,000 dogs and cats are killed at New York City funded animal shelters each year, many simply because there is a shortage of available homes. No-pet clauses play a part in this tragedy. Fewer people can keep pets in the city, and many people threatened with eviction relinquish their pets to animal shelters. Elinor Molbegott is legal counsel for the Humane Society of New York. For more information, contact the HSNY, 306 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022; phone, (212) 752-4842; or e-mail her at

Please contact the legislators listed below and urge them to support Intro 380 and to set a hearing date for this bill.
Council Speaker Gifford Miller: phone, (212) 788-7210; fax, (212) 788-7207; e-mail,
Councilmember Madeline Provenzano (Chair of Housing Committee): phone, (212) 788-7375; fax, (718) 518-8443; e-mail,
Your own Councilmember (if you do not know the name, go to You may write to all Councilmembers at City Hall, New York, NY 10007.

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