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'Dog Racism' Decried at Co-op That May Use DNA Tests to Ban Breeds

By  Sybile Penhirin and James Fanelli | June 16, 2015 7:21am | Updated on June 16, 2015 7:12pm

 The co-op board at a luxury Upper West Side building has a new policy requiring dog owners to get their vet to verify their pets breed.
Co-Op Boards Wants Dog Owners to Prove Pet's Breed
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UPPER WEST SIDE — The co-op board of a luxury Upper West Side tower has instituted a doggy-discrimination policy that requires pet-owning residents to prove the breeds of their pooches, ruffled residents say.

The policy is designed to purge the building of any pedigrees the board deems troublesome.

As of last month, dog owners at 170 West End Ave. must have their veterinarian sign off on the canine’s pedigree and, if the pet is a mix, detail the percentage of each breed, according to a copy of the policy the co-op board sent to residents.

If the breed is unknown, then the co-op board may ask that the mutt take a DNA test to determine it, the document states.

The board members want to know the pet’s genetic make-up because it has a long list of dogs that “are not permitted to reside in the building based upon documented information regarding their tendency towards aggressiveness,” the policy says.

The list of outlawed pooches includes such pint-sized breeds as a Maltese or a Pomeranian.

“It’s like dog racism essentially,” one barking-mad dog-owning resident said of the new policy. “It’s beyond offensive, it’s intrusive.”

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of angering the board, called the policy an abuse of power.

Many dog-owning residents have a bone to pick with the board about the policy but declined to comment out of fear that negative publicity might affect the value of their apartment.

However, one resident called the policy “outrageous” and said that a group of dog owners was considering a formal protest.

The board’s president, Robert Sadin, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A representative for the property manager, FirstService Residential, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Residents first learned of the board’s policy a few months ago when they received a letter telling them dogs would be required to be DNA tested, sources said. Several follow-up letters softened the DNA requirement from mandatory to at the board’s discretion.

The latest version of the policy, issued on May 26, says that dog owners must get a letter from a veterinarian confirming the pet’s breed or detailing the percentage of each breed in a mix.

“If the information is unknown, or uncertain, the board at its sole discretion may require a resident to perform DNA testing,” the policy states.

If a dog is made up of 50 percent or more of the outlawed breeds, it will not be allowed to live in the building, the policy states.

The requirement of a veterinarian's certification and the DNA test are new to the co-op’s pet policy, but the board has banned 27 dog breeds from the building since at least 2011.

The outlawed animals range from large dogs like St. Bernards and German shepherds to medium-sized pooches like pit bulls and basset hounds to toy breeds like a shih tzu.

The board also requires that residents register their dog and provide a mugshot of the canine.

The 484-unit, 42-story cooperative is one of eight buildings that comprise Lincoln Towers, a leafy 20-acre property near Lincoln Center.

Each building has its own co-op board and makes its own policies.

The co-op board at 180 West End Ave., another Lincoln Towers building, also enacted an unpopular policy in 2002. It prohibited new buyers from smoking in their apartments, but the ban was later dropped after it received heavy blowback.

Sylvia Shapiro, a lawyer and the author of the book "The New York Co-op Bible," said it’s not uncommon for boards to place restrictions on dogs.

But Shapiro, who is the board president of her Greenwich Village cooperative, said she has never heard of a pet policy like the one at 170 West End Ave.

“Mark my words, there is going to be a lawsuit for dog discrimination,” she said.

Shapiro, whose book provides legal and practical advice on living in a co-op or condo, said she has heard of many absurd pet rules, including one board mulling the idea of having doormen inoculate all the building’s dogs.

Another board had to backtrack on a policy requiring pooches to use the freight elevator when an owner said the rule would traumatize his pet, she said.

“The problem with dogs is not the dogs, it’s the owners,” Shapiro said. “There seems to be a lot of irrational people around.”

A resident at 170 West End Ave. also said that pet policies should be more about the owners than their dogs.

“The whole thing is just ridiculous because, at the end of the day, it’s about dog owners being responsible,” the resident said.