Recently I took my dog with me to work, and (coincidentally or not) began working with a customer whose priority in her search for a new home was her small dog. This process led me to think about something that has been a part of my life here in New York City for decades: finding an apartment in the city that accepts your pet, in a neighborhood that supports your pet.
So how hard it is to find an apartment in the city that accepts your pet? Not very, if you are willing to be flexible. If you are working with a good agent who understands that your pet being welcome is fundamental to your search for a new home, you won’t even look at apartments that haven’t already met that criterion. Don’t assume that simply because you have seen residents with pets in a building, they are accepted: some buildings have changed their pet policies but have “grandfathered” in the pets of residents who are already in the building. Some buildings accept pets, but only under a certain weight limit. Again, a good agent can screen for those restrictions before you are shown apartments.
An interesting thing to keep in mind is that some buildings require a “pet interview” (generally coops, although some condos may also require it). This may be true whether you are buying into the building, or renting. The purpose of having the entire board, or a representative from it, meeting your pet is to be sure that the pet seems socialized and within weight limitations (if that was a condition of allowing a pet). I had a rather rambunctious beagle many years ago that I had to bring to a pet interview before being allowed to move into a condo on the Upper East Side. I had him groomed prior to the interview, and then walked him to the point of taking the edge off his energy level, and he passed the test. I would recommend the same if you need to undergo a pet interview – have your pet as presentable, physically and behaviorally, as possible at the interview. Some buildings or landlords may require an additional pet deposit even after your pet has been accepted into the building; if there is no pet related damage, you may get it returned when you leave the apartment.
If having outdoor space, like a patio or garden, is important to you and your pet, you will need to be more patient in your search. However, such spaces do exist, such as townhomes or garden level apartments, and both as purchases as well as rentals. I was able to find a two bedroom rental for a recent customer with a small dog that had a private garden of several hundred square feet attached. This customer brought her dog to all apartments that we viewed, and I would recommend that as well: you can get a better feeling of what it is like to have your pet in the building, meeting other residents in the lobby, etc.
The neighborhood you choose to live in, as well as the specific location within a neighborhood, can affect how easy to it to walk and care of your pet. Have your agent show you the pet stores, groomers, and/or doggy day care (yes, this exists) in the area around the apartments you view, and keep in mind the proximity to public parks that may have either enclosed dog runs or off-leash hours. Of course, part of being a responsible dog owner in New York City is following leash laws, keeping records of vaccinations and licensing, and of course, cleaning up after your pet. Some parks, though, do allow pets off leash during certain hours, and if you have a pet that won’t disappear chasing the nearest squirrel, this is a fantastic perk to living close to these parks. Central Park is the ultimate example of a park with off-leash hours – from 6 AM to 9 AM, and again from 9 PM to 1 AM. There is a wonderful online pdf about the rules for having your dog in Central Park (http://www.centralparknyc.org/assets/pdfs/dogfriendlyareas.pdf) and I can say that my early morning walks with my dog Linus are some of my favorite moments in Central Park. Even more common are dog runs, enclosed areas where dogs can be let off leash and socialize with each other. I have had dogs that preferred being off leash, and others that needed the confines of a dog run, so knowing your own pet is the best way to decide your priorities. Some parks (like Carl Schurz Park in Yorkville) even have separate dog runs for large dogs (or small dogs who aren’t intimidated) and small dogs (generally, up to 25 pounds). A complete list of NYC parks with off-leash hours and/or dog runs can be found at http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/dogareas.
I have taken advantage of both dog runs and off-leash hours during many years of living in New York City with my dogs. If you are looking for a home in the city that will also be an optimal situation for your pet, I would be happy to help you in your search. Although some may find the idea of a pet in the “urban jungle” to be counter-intuitive, in fact the city is full of pampered pets. Since our pets live in close quarters with us, rather than spending time in a fenced yard as they might in the suburbs, they become even more fully integrated into our lives as family members. Diane Ackerman has suggested that the farther from nature humans get, the more they seek to bring nature to them, such as having plants or companion animals in high-rise apartments. This suggests that our pets may be crucial to our mental health, and in fact many scientific studies have demonstrated reduction in blood pressure and other markers of stress relief when people are with pets. For those who have a pet, or who would like to get one, the building policies and neighborhood opportunities regarding pets will likely be one of the most – if not the most – important aspects of their search for a home in New York City.