Aarian Marshall is a transportation reporter at WIRED and former CityLab contributor. She lives in San Francisco.
A Manhattan co-op board says it will DNA test dogs to determine whether their breeds meet guidelines for pets.
Hey, you whippet-daschund mixes passing as regular wiener dogs—170 West End Avenue is onto you. DNAinfo New York reports that the co-op board of the luxury Manhattan apartment building will begin to implement a new policy aimed at rooting out targeted “troublesome” dog breeds—one that could involve cheek swabs, pipettes, and polymerase chain reactions. Yes, the board has threatened to DNA test those dogs whose owners don’t have their veterinarian report their pooch’s pedigree and submit a report to the board.
The policy, passed last month, bans 27 breeds of dog, including pomerianians, shih tzus, German shepherds, pit bulls, basset hounds, and St. Bernards (no, not Beethoven!). It also forbids mutts of more than 50 percent of those breeds from moving in.
“It’s like dog racism essentially,” a co-op resident told DNAinfo. “It’s beyond offensive, it’s intrusive.”
Is doggy discrimination legal?
A case of dog racism, perhaps—but it turns out that dogs are not a protected class. Plenty of New York City condos and co-ops ban specific dog breeds, or ban pets altogether. Indeed, anti-discrimination laws do not prevent landlords or boards from acting against pets that are deemed a nuisance, according to the civil rights law firm MFY Legal Services, Inc [PDF]. Even the New York City Housing Authority, a government agency with a real stake in fighting discrimination, forbids tenants from owning full- or mixed-breed Doberman pinchers, pit bulls, or Rottweilers, or any canine that grows to be more than 25 pounds.
The real estate blog Brick Underground notes, however, that New York housing code prevents 170 West End Avenue from implementing their bizarre science policy against offending dogs who have lived “openly and notoriously” in the building for more than 90 days. More simply: The co-op board can only make new dog owners or residents send Rover’s spit off to the lab.
Is doggy discrimination stupid?
Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean that DNA testing doggies is good for business. The growing number of anti-pup apartment buildings has left the real-estate market subject to a simple rule: the law of supply and demand. The New York Times reports:
“Pet owners—especially dog owners—have fewer choices than other renters or buyers and are more likely to pay a premium” for their animals, said Sandra Manley, the training and development manager at Realty Collective. Ms. Manley estimated that units in pet-friendly buildings could fetch 5 to 10 percent more than similar-size units in pet-free buildings.
An analysis from the New York real estate firm Miller Samuel Inc. finds that Manhattan co-ops and condos without pet policies are indeed being sold at higher prices than their pet-restricted counterparts. (Though given that pets are still allowed in 78 percent of Manhattan apartment buildings, these prices could be subject to a host of other factors—say, location).
The situation has also generated some pretty poor press for the denizens of 170 West End Avenue. Sure, some dogs—and maybe even dog breeds—are certainly disruptive. (Aloha to Zorro, my parents’ shih tzu-poodle mix, who is probably barking up a storm in their otherwise empty apartment at this very moment.) But breed is not destiny, as many anti-policy folks have pointed out. As one dog walker told the New York Post yesterday: “Temperament has to do with lots of things, like how [the dogs] were raised, whether they came from a puppy mill, when they were weaned. It’s a silly policy.”