Animal Law in New York State

By NYSBA Lawyer Referral Service

December 19, 2022

Animal Law in New York State


By NYSBA Lawyer Referral Service


Your guide to animal law in the state of New York.

Reporting Animal Cruelty

To report animal cruelty, please contact your local county Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“SPCA”) or other humane enforcement agency or contact your local police department. The agency you call must have police powers to investigate, file a report, and arrest. Usually, each county has one agency that possesses these powers in addition to the police. For assistance in locating your local SPCA, you may contact The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“ASPCA”) at (212)-876- 7700. You can also access the ASPCA’s website at The ASPCA has law enforcement powers only in New York State. Remember to give your local humane officers as much information as possible including names, addresses, witnesses, dates, times and pictures, if possible.

Companion Animals and Housing Issues

It is not always readily apparent when a person can keep a companion animal in a home. While people who keep a companion animal in a house are not usually challenged unless the animal seriously provokes a neighbor; people living in apartments and condominium-type communities, face different challenges. For example, many leases prohibit pets, and often house rules in a co-op or condominium ban pets, without written board permission.

But just as a lease doesn’t allow a landlord to withhold essential services such as heat and hot water, or allow a co-op to unlawfully discriminate; a no-pet clause also is not always enforceable. For example, in New York City and in Westchester County, laws commonly referred to as the “Pet Law”, prohibit the enforcement of a “no pet” clause, even if there is an applicable “no pet” clause in the lease, if a landlord fails, within three months of his knowledge of a tenant’s harboring of a pet, to enforce the “no pet” provision. The law applies to both owners and renters, in apartment complexes, co-ops and condos, whether privately owned or government subsidized. Just as a landlord must accommodate a disabled tenant who requires a wheelchair, a companion animal must similarly be permitted.
The only limitations are generally that the disability substantially interfere with a major life activity (work, social activities, etc.), and that the pet is under control (i.e. it would be reasonable to allow the pet). These disability laws are set forth in the Federal Fair Housing Act, as well as, the “ADA”, and in state and local human rights laws. Some federal laws allow pets for all people over 62 years of age in federal or federally-funded housing. Other laws allow animals trained as “service animals” to reside with their companion human.

Access Rights of Individuals with Disabilities and their Service Animals Legal Protection for Service Animals

The rights of persons with disabilities to use service animals are protected under a network of federal, state and local laws and regulations. Federal regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) specify that a “Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability”. The New York Civil Rights Law specifically protects individuals who use guide dogs, hearing dogs and service dogs. Discrimination against persons with disabilities is prohibited under other New York laws, which may protect service animals in addition to service dogs. Both New York State and federal laws protect the rights of individuals with disabilities to bring a service animal into the workplace. New York State law and the “ADA” forbid places of public accommodation from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. These laws provide that service animals must be permitted in all areas of a facility where customers are generally permitted.

New York Law Aims to Care for Pets Left Behind in Evictions

New York Law requires officers executing a warrant of eviction to check the property for companion animals and such animals with the evictee.


[Updated August 2018]

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