Housing a pet in New York City presents a few extra challenges and restrictions to the apartment search. In some buildings, it is far harder to bring a small dog or cat than additional human family members! For a truly only-in-NYC experience, there are a few buildings that requires the condo or co-op board to interview your pet. To determine the actual rules. the best first step is of course to ask the building management. Any decent apartment broker or leasing office should be able to provide the general guidelines, and it is common to require a reasonable pet fee or deposit. For those planning on sneaking your pet into the apartment, we highly recommend against it. Even if there is no doorman or live-in super to catch you, your own neighbors might prove to be the most vigilant lookouts to uphold any pet restriction policies.
Just because a building calls itself pet-friendly is no reason to assume it will be friendly to your particular pet! Most pet friendly buildings will accept cats, small dogs, and pets fully contained in a cage or aquiarium (rabbits and fish). However, there are often size restrictions. The magic cutoff seems to be 40 pounds for many condos and co-op buildings when assessing dogs. Be sure to clarify the rules before you sign a lease, and know that the rules are subject to change almost at any time.
It may seem unbelievable that the board of directors of a New York co-op would have the time or inclination to interview your dog. Stay calm... the purpose is not to ensure your dog reacts promptly to random strangers shouting "SIT" or "ROLL OVER" repeatedly. The board interview is primarily for the board to verify the breed, age, and size of your dog. As you might imagine, more creative dog owners before you may have grossly underestimated the weight of their pets, or quoted the weight without accounting for eventual growth. At the interview, the board might require a photograph, and you will be expected to appear before the board should you add new pets to your official list of residents. They will also carefully go over the building policy with you so you will be aware of any restrictions or extra fees charged to your unit.
We definitely do not condone sneaking pets into your apartment without notifying the landlord. It is almost certainly a breach of contract and violation of your lease agreement, as almost every lease will specifically ask you to clarify and initial that you will not have pets residing in the apartment. Even if your lease does not mention the pet policy, the apartment may be part of a condo or co-op with specific house rules or bylaws forbidding pets, or at least registering and notifying the building of your pets. In the worst case, the illegal pet could be grounds for eviction. Even in cases when an eye-seeing dog or guide dog must be accomodating for someone who is visually impaired, it is still good practice to disclose any and all animans that will be residing in the unit.
After surveying dozens of doormen buildings in NYC years ago, with the help of many sociology students, Professor Peter Bearmen concluded that it is absolutely inappropriate to ask the building doorman to take care of pet chores. Along with holiday tipping and other ettiquette issues, these findings were published in a book called Doormen. Please do not ask your super or doorman to walk your dog. If you need to be away for a period of time, find a proper sitter for your pets. In an absolute emergency, you are much better off calling a friend and begging him or her to come to your apartment and handle the tasks (your doorman and super should have a spare key at all times).