Although pets are still considered “property” under New York State law, the law in this area continues to evolve in light of societal shifts in the way animals are viewed. Nationwide, most people with pets consider them to be cherished family members. If you are a pet parent, below are five legal considerations to be aware of that can help protect yourself and your beloved companion animal.
1. Pet Custody
Whether you are a married or unmarried couple, it is best to make sure to address custody of family pets in the event that a dispute should later arise. A good way to ensure that your companion animal will not later become part of a bitter custody dispute if the relationship does not work out is to address custody at the outset. Pet custody issues can be addressed in a pre-nuptial agreement (or separately in what some refer to as a “pet-nup”), or in a contractual cohabitation agreement. If neither of these legal mechanisms are in place and a dispute should later arise, courts in New York apply the “best for all concerned” standard and analyze a number of factors concerning the parties involved.
2. Pet Trusts
You can plan ahead to ensure that your companion animal is well-cared for as part of your estate planning. While pets can be included in a will, many choose to create Pet Trusts instead as it can be effective immediately, rather than waiting for the probate process to be completed. Recognizable under New York State Law, a trust for pets can designate a caretaker and specify instructions for the pet’s care through their lifetime. A Pet Trust can address anything from your companion animal’s preferred food to their favorite park.
3. Landlord-Tenant Protections
If you require a companion animal due to a mental or emotional disability, it is best to consult with a qualified medical care provider who can best determine if an Emotional Support Animal would benefit you. Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) are recognized by the Fair Housing Act, meaning a landlord may not be able to deny you housing and have to afford you a reasonable accommodation for your ESA.
If your companion animal is not a designated ESA, and you have kept a pet in your New York City apartment, despite a “no-pets” clause in a lease, your landlord may be precluded from taking legal action against you if they knew- or should have known- about the animal’s presence for a period of three months or more. Commonly referred to as NYC’s “Pet Law,” Westchester County also has a similar law.
4. Dangerous Dog Proceeding Defenses
If a “Dangerous Dog Proceeding” has been commenced against you, as a result of your dog attacking another animal or person, the law recognizes certain circumstances in which a dog may have acted which wouldn’t necessarily render it “dangerous.” For example, your dog may have a defense if it acted as a result of being provoked; was reacting to pain; or protecting itself, its owner, puppies, or the home.
5. New York’s Pet Lemon Law
It is heartbreaking to bring a new pet home and find out it is ill. If you have recently purchased a pet from a dealer and have incurred costs for its medical care, you may be entitled to reasonable reimbursement for the veterinary treatment, or other remedies, if certain timelines and other conditions are met.
If you are facing a Pet Law or Animal Law issue, it is best to consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances and what legal remedies may be available to you. The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins is available to represent clients concerning Pet Law and Animal Law matters throughout New York City, Long Island, and Westchester. With office locations conveniently located in Manhattan & Melville, Long Island, The Law Office of Jessica M. Semins serves Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Staten Island, Nassau and Suffolk counties, and Westchester county. To schedule an appointment for a consultation call (646) 397-6844.
Manhattan: 11 Broadway, Suite 615, New York, NY 10004
(Midtown option also available)
Long Island: 445 Broad Hollow Road, Suite 25, Melville, NY 11747
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