The emotional support pet has never been more popular than during the coronavirus pandemic.
As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country and America faces another round of stay-at-home orders, many of those quarantining in isolation have looked to pets to fill a social and emotional void.
More Americans have filed applications to foster or adopt a pet than ever before, and some rescues have seen one-full kennels completely cleared out. But bringing home a furry friend isn’t always a sure thing, particularly in urban areas where apartment or condominium buildings don’t allow for pets or employ other pet-related restrictions.
Already, some New York City landlords have hit pause on traditionally stringent no-pet policies, while others are reevaluating tenants’ needs on a case by case basis.
“More and more Manhattan owners and renters are buying or adopting pets due to loneliness of being home during the pandemic, and working from home,” said Mitch Askinas, a real estate agent with Warburg Realty.
Askinas, who also serves as vice president for his 205-unit condo building, said his building made the decision to become more pet-friendly three years ago when it agreed to allow two pets per owner. In addition to improving morale, the loosening of restrictions has helped some landlords drum up new business.
“Individual apartment landlords are more agreeable to allowing tenants to have pets just to get tenants to rent their apartments,” Askinas said.
Currently, about three-quarters of all New York City landlords and co-op boards have rules restricting pet ownership, according to Property Nest. For the buildings that do allow for pets, expect restrictions by size, breed and type of pet — and expect to pay more when it comes to the security deposit and rent.
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Ted Karagannis, another agent with Warburg Realty, said that he’s witnessed many smaller buildings like brownstones adapt to the current times.
“The buildings are very eager to get their apartments rented, and are more flexible with the no-pet policies,” Karagannis said. “They are requiring 2-3 months security deposit, and some are asking to meet the pets before they approve the rental lease.”
Other buildings are becoming more flexible with the type and size of pets, according to Warburg Realty’s Parisa Afkhami. “For example, one condo building [I work with] had a 30-pound weight limit [for pets], which has now been increased to 55 pounds,” she added.
New York City’s pet law, established in 1983, allows a tenant to override their building’s no-pet clause but not without jumping through a few hoops.
Under the pet law, a tenant can claim that a landlord has waived their right to enforcing a no-pet clause if the tenant has openly kept the pet; the agent or super has known or should have known of the pet for three months; or if the landlord does not begin proceedings to evict said pet within three months of gaining knowledge of its existence. In other words, the pet law is no sure thing.
Still, unfriendly pet policies haven’t stopped major urban areas from going to the dogs.
Demand for fostering and/or adopting pets has been at an all-time high during the pandemic. During the first two months of the pandemic, the number of people filing online applications to foster pets in New York City and Los Angeles increased 400% when compared to 2019, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
In October, a majority of roughly 600 shelters and rescue organizations participating in the ASPCA’s dog adoption campaign reported a year-over-year increase in foster dogs going directly from foster home to adoptive home, according to a spokesperson for the humane society organization.
Pet adoptions in New York City have become so prevalent during the pandemic that some shelters have seen their number of adoptable pets dwindle, according to a report by ABC 7. In some cases, shelters have been completely cleared out — one of the more positive things to come out of the COVID-19 crisis.