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Giving shelter


OAKDALE—For the past six and a half years, Maryann Hamilton, a resident of Birchwood on the Green co-op complex, has been permitted to take care of seven stray and/or feral cats on the grounds of the complex, feeding them and providing shelter. However, recently, Hamilton received a notice from an attorney representing the co-op board that states, while citing “hazardous conditions,” she must remove the shelters and stop feeding the cats by April 25, 2019. That’s something she said she’s neither willing nor by law able to do. And so as the target date nears, Hamilton said she’s very concerned about what will happen to the animals that have become dependent on her help.

This newspaper had the opportunity to accompany Hamilton on her morning routine. Every day she drives her car over to a secluded section of the complex that’s adjacent to a sump and opens the unlocked chain-link fence gate. Behind the fence, on any given day, one or more of the seven cats – Racoony, George, Jingles, Shadow, Gigi, Bold or Cookie – emerge from housing made from scrap wood and tarp, and await the bowls of both dried and wet food that Hamilton puts down for their meal throughout the day. On very cold mornings, she places hand warmers between the bowls “so the food doesn’t freeze,” she said. She funds most of the food, save for occasional donations, and said she doesn’t mind doing it at all. 

Racoony and Jingles stopped by the day we were there. The cats look happy as she bends down to greet them and pat the top of one of their heads. “You hear that?,” Hamilton asks with a smile. “Ferals don’t meow, but these guys do.”

According to Hamilton, a former superintendent of the complex who retired in February first cared for the cats. “These were his cats; he took care of them,” Hamilton said. “I was the rescuer who helped him,” adding that she trapped and brought all of the cats to be inoculated and neutered before returning them to the property.

“I was on the [co-op] board at the time and there were other board members who helped. Maintenance helped and management also helped. But now there’s new management,” she said. “Boards change, rules change, but you can’t change something like this because this is now their shelter. And it’s against the law.”

According to New York State Agriculture and Markets law 353, essentially removing the accustomed means of sustenance from a domestic animal or even those in the wild is considered an act of cruelty and is a misdemeanor. Hamilton points out that some are feral while others are stray, and notes that stray cats are those that had once been domiciled but then were either lost or abandoned. “They’re not here because they want to be here; they’re here because of irresponsible pet owners,” she said.

Hamilton, a retired educator, said that the area is always cleaned up and she takes the responsibility of making certain it is done routinely. She said that the same number of cats has not changed over the years and that “these cats will die off by attrition.” And that’s why she said she’s having a difficult time understanding why there is now a problem.

“We’re willing to do whatever is possible to address any concerns about liability,” said Hamilton’s attorney, Karen Copeland. Although Copeland said the possibility exists for legal action, she hopes it doesn’t come to that. “My hope is that we can negotiate for a resolution,” she said.

Hamilton is hoping for a good outcome as well. “It’s all about the cats,” she said. 

Giving shelter

The fur is flying at a Long Island co-op complex where an animal-loving resident is caring for a colony of stray cats living on the grounds.

Maryann Hamilton — who’s fed the seven kitties every morning for the past several years — got a letter from the co-op’s lawyer demanding that she “remove” them from behind a fence at the Birchwood on the Green development in Oakdale.

Lawyer Andrew Troia told the retired teacher to get rid of the cats by April 25, when a gate in the fence will be locked to “preclude individuals not employed by the cooperative housing corporation from accessing this area.”

Hamilton, 68, said a former superintendent at the complex built shelters and feeding stations for the cats in the woods.

“This is their home,” she said of feline friends Jingles, Cookie, Shadow, Gigi, Bold, Raccoony and George.

“They’re not criminals, I’m just feeding them.”

Hamilton’s lawyer, Karen Copeland, also noted that New York state law “prohibits depriving an animal of sustenance,” which is a misdemeanor.

Co-op board president Jane Sheridan didn’t return a request for comment.

 Maryann Hamilton and one of the seven stray cats she takes care of every day.


Not everyone froze their tail off in Times Square by choice.


The NYPD brought a contingent of police dogs to the Crossroads of the World as part of its massive New Year’s Eve security crackdown — but didn’t put them in winter coats!

The Post spotted three German shepherds and a Belgian Malinois braving Sunday’s cold as they trotted and jumped alongside their human partners, while the mid-afternoon mercury hovered around 15 degrees with a wind chill of just 1 degree.


But one K-9 — a German short-haired pointer named Sully — looked miserable, sitting on his haunches and shivering at 47th Street and Seventh Avenue.


At one point, the poor creature, wearing only a ballistic vest that left much of his torso exposed,

“I think he’d rather be home,” said Sully’s uniformed partner, who was bundled in bulky layers against the sub-freezing weather.


Lawyer Karen Copeland, who bills herself as the city’s “pet attorney,” was outraged, saying: “Dogs can’t speak for themselves to complain of discomfort, but they feel pain and suffer in the cold, as humans do.


“I know the NYPD takes good care of its dogs, so I see no excuse for failing to provide for a warm coat in frigid conditions.”

Although it’s commonly believed that fur makes a dog resistant to cold weather, that’s not necessarily true — and those with short hair “feel the cold faster because they have less protection,” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.


The NYPD wouldn’t say how many dogs were assigned to patrol Times Square, saying, “We don’t discuss staffing levels.”


A spokesperson added: “The handlers are responsible for the care [and] well-being of their canine partners.”

Additional reporting by Sarah Trefethen

My dog was killed by an unlicensed pet surgeon

A self-styled Ace Ventura lost her own dog for good when a high-end Upper West Side veterinary clinic allowed an unlicensed worker to perform surgery on the pooch.

Six-year-old bull terrier Spanky died on the operating table at Gotham Veterinary Center on Columbus Avenue Nov. 23, 2015, according to owner Jane Colton.

Last month, the clinic’s owners pleaded guilty to the state Board of Regents, which licenses vets, for allowing the unqualified technician to pull one of Spanky’s teeth. Gotham agreed to pay a $5,000 fine, according to a letter the state sent Colton.

“Five-thousand [dollars] to the state for my 1-in-a-million dog. How can you put a monetary value on something that is priceless?” Colton sobbed to a reporter Wednesday.

She did not order a necropsy on the pooch, but both she and Gotham believe the death was related to Spanky’s anesthesia, according to both parties.

Colton, a former flight attendant, has made headlines by helping New Yorkers reunite with their lost pets, prompting The New York Times to call her the “Ace Ventura of the pet press” in 2001.

When Colton brought Spanky to Gotham Veterinary, vet technician Patricia Dominguez diagnosed the dog and laid out treatment options, according to Colton, who said Dominguez assured her “we have a really good anesthesiologist.”

But when Dominguez operated on Spanky, she wasn’t licensed to perform the surgery.

Actual veterinarians must complete 60 credit hours of undergrad work and another four years of college culminating in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, according to the state.


An anesthesia log for the operation was signed by vet Christina Carbonell, as well as by Dominguez and a second tech whom the state has not implicated in any wrongdoing.

The state Education Department notified Colton in September 2016 that it was also “proceeding forward with penalty charges” against Carbonell and Dominguez, Colton said.

The state did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and neither did Dominguez. Carbonell could not be reached.

GVC founder Bonnie Brown tried to excuse her staffers, claiming ignorance of the law and saying everyone allows techs to do vet work.

“I actually didn’t even know that. Most practices — almost all practices — have regular licensed technicians or unlicensed technicians pulling teeth. It’s been that way in the field forever,” Brown said.

Dominguez “spent three specialty years training in dentistry and passed extensive course work. A very, very capable person,” Brown continued.

But GVC should have known better, according to pet attorney Karen Copeland.

“Ignorance of the law is not an excuse from liability,” she said. “This person could have been incredibly competent but if you don’t have the license you can’t do it.”


The fur is flying at a Long Island condo complex where a disabled woman faces nearly $11,000 in fines for keeping two cats instead of just one — even though the manager there has personally cared for the critters.

Elizabeth Colaianni said she brought the tuxedo-pattern kitties with her in 2008 after purchasing her one-bedroom unit at Leisure Village in Ridge.

Condo manager Virginia Young saw feline brothers Rocky and Mickey in their travel crates on moving day, and since then has fed and cleaned up after them while their owner was in the hospital, Colaianni said.

But the condo board went ballistic when Colaianni, 58, who uses two canes or a walker to get around, won authority from the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission to install a ramp to her front door, according to discrimination complaints she has filed with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Colaianni alleges that since the ramp was installed in 2012, the board has illegally retaliated against her by imposing $250-a-month fines, plus legal fees, for violating the development’s one-pet-only rule.

The latest warning letter from the Leisure Village Association put the total amount owed at $10,675 as of mid-January.

Colaianni said she paid the first $250 fine, and several subsequent monthly fines of $100 each — even though the condo association only charges $10 a head for human roommates.

But when the penalty suddenly got jacked up to $250 a month, she said she could no longer afford it on her $78,000 salary as an IT customer-service worker.

“I can’t even imagine that they’re asking me to take one of my children and get rid of one of my children. I can’t even wrap my head around it,” Colaianni said through tears.

Colainanni’s lawyer, Karen Copeland, said Colaianni had a doctor’s note saying the 9-year-old cats served as “emotional support animals” and called the demand that she keep only one “unthinkable and heartless.”

HUD said it was still investigating Colaianni’s complaints.

Leisure Village board president Carol Leonard, Young and the condo association’s lawyers did not return requests for comment.

Right: Colaianni outside her home at Leisure Village in Ridge, Long Island.Photo: Victor Alcorn 

A disabled woman who lives with her five little dogs in her home in the projects is refusing to roll over and get rid of them on the Housing Authority’s command.

Tanya Boisseau, 60, is challenging an NYCHA crackdown on her Shih Tzus, which share her East Harlem one-bedroom apartment in the Taft Houses.

“They are my babies,” Boisseau told The Post through tears. “I know they are dogs, but I don’t call them that, and I get offended when people do. They are my kids.”

The former Rikers Island correction officer, who uses a wheelchair because of a degenerative bone disease, says the pets gave her a reason to live after she was diagnosed with HIV.

“They are the only reason I get up in the morning,” she said.

The NYCHA limits residents to one pet per apartment and has charged Boisseau with violating the terms of her lease. A hearing is set for Sept. 1.

Boisseau’s pack includes mom Mimi Jewels, dad Gizmo, son Racer and daughters Stella Dallas and Flossie.

Her pro-bono lawyer, Karen Copeland, accused the NYCHA of treating her client unfairly because it has allowed tenants to keep their pet pit bulls despite a specific prohibition against the breed.

Copeland also mentioned a six-year statute of limitations in such cases, pointing out that Boisseau’s had the dogs for at least eight years.

“We understand Ms. Boisseau’s attachment to her five dogs, but her tenancy agreement . . . allows her the companionship and registration of one dog,” an NYCHA rep said.


Kody Keplinger lives in a no-dog building. But because she is legally blind, her landlord allows Corey, a trained service dog, to live with her. Credit - Annie Ling for The New York Times

What does it take to get a dog into a no-pet building?

The question is becoming a hot topic in New York City. Because depending on whom you ask, the answer is A) a legitimate disability or B) a dubious note from a doctor or therapist.

Most people know that federal, state and city laws require building owners and landlords to accommodate tenants who have disabilities — for instance, by waiving a no-pet rule for a blind resident’s guide dog. But word apparently is spreading about how broadly these laws define a disability, allowing people with a wide range of physical and mental conditions to seek waivers for their dogs.

Serious depression, chronic pain, AIDS, autism, dementia, cancer and heart disease are just some of the illnesses lawyers say can qualify as disabilities. And as New Yorkers trade advice about this topic in dog parks, elevators and online pet forums, the number of people applying for waivers is increasing “enormously,” said Darryl Vernon, a partner in the law firm Vernon & Ginsburg.

Mr. Vernon, who specializes in pet and housing law, cautioned that making your case to a landlord or co-op board takes more than just copying a doctor’s note someone posted online.

“You need to show two things,” he said. “One, that you really have a disability within the meaning of the law, not just seasonal depression or the economy is bad. And two, that there’s a connection between the dog and your disability, that the dog is medically helpful.”

That still leaves landlords, co-op boards and their legal representatives a lot of gray area in determining what constitutes a legitimate disability, and whether a dog (or other animal) truly helps alleviate it. No-pet buildings worry that granting too many waivers will encourage other tenants to line up with their own doctors’ notes. And buildings must consider the sentiments of residents who chose a dog-free building because of allergies or a bad experience with an unruly animal.

But denying a request for a disability accommodation can have negative consequences, too. “No one wants to be held liable for discriminatory conduct,” said Adam Leitman Bailey, a lawyer who represents rental buildings, co-ops and condos. “Most boards leave it up to their attorneys to make these decisions.”

Mr. Bailey says he reviews at least one request a month for a waiver of a no-pet rule to allow for a service or emotional-support animal — usually a dog, although other animals, like birds, may qualify. He recommends approving about half of these requests, suggesting a denial if the documentation is thin.

“We require a lot of information,” Mr. Bailey said, “and often they can’t provide it.”

As an example, he shared a letter from a doctor, submitted on behalf of a patient (whose name was redacted) with Type 2 diabetes and unspecified “chronic medical conditions.” The six-sentence letter mentioned the health benefits of walking a dog (“great exercise”) and the patient’s observation that “spending time with his dog had greatly improved his mood,” but the reasons were deemed insufficient to justify a waiver.

A big challenge for building owners, lawyers say, is determining what proof they can ask for in order to establish how a dog helps with a disability, especially when the condition in question is not an obvious physical impairment.

The relevant statutes are the federal Fair Housing Act (which defines a disability as a mental or physical condition that “substantially limits” a major life activity), the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. The city law is generally considered the broadest of the three, covering “physical, medical, mental or psychological” impairments — which opens the door to a wide range of requests.

One woman in a no-dog building who received a waiver illustrates the complexity of some of these cases.

Describing her situation on the condition that her name not be published, she listed a succession of challenges that left her depressed: she lost her job; her father died; her mother had to move into an assisted-living facility; and the fate of her father’s dog was up in the air.

A neighbor recommended a lawyer with a disability-waiver track record. The lawyer referred her to a therapist, who wrote a lengthy letter describing her anxiety and outlining her family history, ultimately recommending that she be allowed an emotional-support animal — her father’s now-ownerless dog. She secured a second letter from her primary-care physician, who based his note on a sample letter she gave him.

“Everything that the two notes said is actually true,” she said, explaining that the dog helps get her out of the house, alleviates her loneliness and eases her depression. Still, she acknowledged that she probably would not have taken on a dog if she hadn’t inherited her father’s pet.

“I couldn’t bring her to a shelter because I couldn’t allow her to be killed,” she said. “I was trying to do the right thing by keeping her.”

She continued seeing the therapist, and estimated that she spent about $3,000 in legal fees in order to get the waiver approved.

Other cases, however, involve blatantly fraudulent attempts to evade the no-dog rule.

“Somebody asked for a dog to help them because they weren’t very stable on their feet,” said Dennis H. Greenstein, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw who represents co-op and condominium boards. “The board found out from other residents that they saw that person jogging fairly regularly in Central Park without the dog.” 

Mr. Greenstein says he’s seeing more requests for service or emotional-support animals, and estimates that “a tad more are accepted than rejected,” especially when the dog performs a specific task, like reminding the owner to take medication.

“I think boards are generally interested in trying to do the right thing,” he said. “They just want to make sure this is not a backdoor way to get a pet in.”

To discourage bogus requests, some buildings are drafting rules outlining the conditions for which waivers are granted. Typically, the application includes a note from a doctor or therapist, and proof that the dog has a license from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (and in some cases that it has been registered as a service dog).

As part of the approval process, building owners and boards are allowed to ask questions about the materials submitted, so there may be some back-and-forth before a request is acted upon.

“It’s not unreasonable for a landlord to make some additional inquiries about the case,” said Karen Copeland, a lawyer who has represented dozens of clients seeking such waivers.

Among them: a woman with lung cancer whose dog helped prevent her from smoking cigarettes (“It provided her with a distraction”); someone with Parkinson’s disease (“It was able to diminish his symptoms, like trembling”); and a recovering alcoholic (“The dog gave her social things to do — she could go to a dog park and make friends”).

Ms. Copeland also represents Betty Cohen, the owner of a no-dog condominium unit at the Bay Club in Bayside, Queens. Ms. Cohen, who says she suffers from depression, acquired two West Highland terriers and requested a disability accommodation for them. After she submitted letters from her doctors attesting to her condition, the Bay Club said yes to one dog, but notified her that she had to remove the second from the premises by Sept. 30.

“I can’t live without both dogs,” Ms. Cohen said. “No matter what it costs or what I have to do, I have to have them.”

Barbara Morley, the president of the Bay Club’s board of managers, explained the building’s decision in an e-mail, noting that the documentation Ms. Cohen submitted, which was reviewed by legal counsel, “did not support a need for two dogs.”

“Over the last decade we have extended ourselves to accommodate people with special needs who request permission to keep an emotional-support dog,” Ms. Morley wrote, adding that the increase in “comfort dogs” in the building had increased the number of complaints from other residents about dogs barking and soiling carpets. “Many have purchased apartments here because of the no-dog policy,” she said, “and so it is the responsibility of the Board of Managers to consider the concerns and needs of all residents.”

As of last week, Ms. Cohen had not decided what she was going to do, but Ms. Copeland said one option would be to submit a discrimination complaint to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Other cases are filed with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, which investigates complaints about housing discrimination, including claims that an owner or landlord refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disabled individual. The commission can levy penalties and award damages.

“If someone comes to us with a service-animal issue,” said Cliff Mulqueen, deputy commissioner and general counselor for the human rights commission, “they’ve stated a claim of discrimination and we have to take the case.”

Mr. Mulqueen says that although housing providers may challenge the medical documentation submitted by the resident, they should be careful about adopting rules about service animals once a dog has been approved.

“If you start requiring extra insurance or you start penalizing people,” he said, “you’re going to risk running into other issues of discrimination. That’s a really tricky road.”

But housing providers do have the right to remove a service dog or an emotional-support animal if it becomes a nuisance — for instance, by barking incessantly or soiling common areas.

Kody Keplinger, who is legally blind, had reservations about getting a service dog before deciding to take the plunge earlier this year. One of her concerns was how her building, which doesn’t allow dogs, would deal with her request; another was whether she could handle the responsibility of owning a pet.

The trainer from the agency that matched her with a German shepherd named Corey helped ease the transition on both fronts, accompanying her when she spoke with her landlord and emphasizing the training that service dogs receive.

“A legitimate concern my landlord did have was whether there would be any peeing in the apartment,” Ms. Keplinger recalled. Describing Corey, she added: “That is something she’s been trained for — she actually goes on command. I take her to a spot and tell her when she should go.”

Although Ms. Keplinger’s landlord didn’t challenge her need for a service dog, people at movie theaters and in other public places have accused her of faking her disability. She worries that dishonest requests for service or support animals will have negative repercussions for people who really need them.

“Frankly,” she said, “I would rather a few people slip through the cracks and cheat the system than have the regulations made harder on people who need service dogs. It is a very complicated issue, and I understand it’s frustrating for landlords and co-ops.

“Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution.”

LIKE twin Miss Muffets on a damask tuffet, 90-year-old Mary Pasko and her 13-year-old toy poodle, Coco, recline on a sofa in the immaculate Hartley House co-op from which Coco, and by extension Mrs. Pasko, faces eviction.

Shortly after the death of her husband, Mrs. Pasko received Coco, then a puppy, as a gift from her younger daughter, Denise, with the hope that the dog would act as a sort of bereavement assistant after her widowed mother moved in with Denise and her daughter, Alison. It worked. But five years into the arrangement, Denise fell ill with cancer and Mrs. Pasko moved, minus Coco, back to Long Island to live with her other daughter, Joan Anzelone, a retired schoolteacher, at Hartley House, a brick co-op that is bullish on its no-pets policy. Coco’s presence as a frequent visitor was tolerated, but her home was New Hope, Pa., until, in 2007, Denise Pasko died with her mother, and Coco, at her bedside.

Doubly bereaved, Mrs. Pasko refused to return to Hartley House without Coco. Ms. Anzelone requested a waiver of the no-pets policy. It was denied. A legal squabble began, as did residents’ accusations that Ms. Anzelone was monkeying with their property values. “I’m not a rule-breaker, I was a teacher for 31 years,” she says, playing hostess in a living room whose focal point — and rallying cry — is an embroidered pillow that reads: The Dog and Its Housekeeping Staff Reside Here. But Hartley House says the dog can’t reside here. “We all understand I’m breaking their rule, but there are rules and there are extenuating circumstances,” Ms. Anzelone says.

Coco weighs six pounds, does not bite, bark or shed and is a ripe old 91 in dog years, the age Mrs. Pasko turns in people years next month. That she constitutes a threat to the safety, integrity and property values of Hartley House and its shareholders seems far-fetched to her owner.

Mrs. Pasko, a feisty senior and former beauty parlor manager — she bears a faint facial resemblance to the actress Helen Hayes — insisted she would not, could not, live without her dog. Don’t tell Coco this, but Mrs. Pasko once threatened to euthanize them both with pills from her vast collection of medications should the co-op expel Coco.

“I think that by the time you’re 90, you deserve to have something of your very own that nobody can take away,” she says, tartly. “She’s my medicine. I don’t think I could make it without her.” Like sweethearts, they send fond gazes in each other’s direction whenever they sigh and shift position: yes, they both have arthritis. And a fondness for lamb chops. And afternoon naps.

BATTLING Mary Pasko and her toy poodle, Coco, with Mrs. Pasko

A poodle named Coco could cost an 89-year-old woman her home on Long Island.

Mary Pasko was forced to move into a small Rockville Centre apartment with her only remaining daughter, Joan Anzelone, last year, after a daughter she had been living with in Pennsylvania passed away.

Accompanying Pasko was Coco, her 12-year-old gray poodle, who never strays more than two feet from her side.

But the co-op firm, 75 Main Avenue Owners Corp., prohibits pets and ordered the dog out. Heartbroken, Pasko tried to get Coco adopted, but found that the pooch’s advanced age made that difficult.

Anzelone’s lawyer, Karen Copeland, argues in a housing-discrimination complaint that a 1988 Fair Housing Act amendment says landlords in no-pet buildings must make exceptions for “emotional support” animals.

The co-op filed a lawsuit threatening to evict Pasko and her daughter if Coco is not removed. The company’s lawyer declined to comment.

Pasko said, “She’s really all I have left.”

ON a sun-drenched weekend last month, cafes from TriBeCa to the Upper West Side were swelling with diners, many of whom left dogs tied to parking meters in deference to Health Department rules that prohibit pets in restaurants. At French Roast on upper Broadway, however, two women sat down to brunch with dogs in tow: a golden retriever and a Yorkie toted in a bag.

"They both said that their animals were emotional service dogs," said Gil Ohana, the manager, explaining why he let them in. "One of them actually carried a doctor's letter."

Health care professionals have recommended animals for psychological or emotional support for more than two decades, based on research showing many benefits, including longer lives and less stress for pet owners.

But recently a number of New York restaurateurs have noticed a surge in the number of diners seeking to bring dogs inside for emotional support, where previously restaurants had accommodated only dogs for the blind.

"I had never heard of emotional support animals before," said Steve Hanson, an owner of 12 restaurants including Blue Fin and Blue Water Grill in Manhattan. "And now all of a sudden in the last several months, we're hearing this."

The increasing appearance of pets whose owners say they are needed for emotional support in restaurants — as well as on airplanes, in offices and even in health spas — goes back, according to those who train such animals, to a 2003 ruling by the Department of Transportation. It clarified policies regarding disabled passengers on airplanes, stating for the first time that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.

The following year appellate courts in New York State for the first time accepted tenants' arguments in two cases that emotional support was a viable reason to keep a pet despite a building's no-pets policy. Word of the cases and of the Transportation Department's ruling spread, aided by television and the Internet. Now airlines are grappling with how to accommodate 200-pound dogs in the passenger cabin and even emotional-support goats. And businesses like restaurants not directly addressed in the airline or housing decisions face a newly empowered group of customers seeking admittance with their animals.

WHILE most people who train animals that help the disabled — known as service animals — are happy that deserving people are aided, some are also concerned that pet owners who might simply prefer to brunch with their Labradoodle are abusing the guidelines.

"The D.O.T. guidance document was an outrageous decision," said Joan Froling, chairwoman of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a nonprofit organization representing people who depend on service dogs. "Instead of clarifying the difference between emotional support animals who provide comfort by their mere presence and animals trained to perform specific services for the disabled, they decided that support animals were service animals."

No one interviewed for this article admitted to taking advantage of the guidelines, but there is evidence that it happens. Cynthia Dodge, the founder and owner of Tutor Service Dogs in Greenfield, Mass., said she has seen people's lives transformed by emotional-support animals. She has also "run into a couple of people with small dogs that claim they are emotional support animals but they are not," she said. "I've had teenagers approach me wanting to get their dogs certified. This isn't cute and is a total insult to the disabled community. They are ruining it for people who need it."

The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act states that anyone depending on an animal to function should be allowed full access to all private businesses that serve the public, like restaurants, stores and theaters. The law specifies that such animals must be trained specifically to assist their owner. True service animals are trained in tasks like finding a spouse when a person is in distress, or preventing people from rolling onto their stomachs during seizures.

But now, because the 2003 Department of Transportation document does not include language about training, pet owners can claim that even untrained puppies are "service animals," Ms. Froling said. "People think, 'If the D.O.T. says I can take my animal on a plane, I can take it anywhere,' " she said.

Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen, who teaches psychology at John Jay College in Manhattan and sees a psychotherapist, said her dog, a pit bull mix, helps fend off dark moods that began after her husband died eight years ago. She learned about psychological support pets from the Delta Society, a nonprofit group that aims to bring people and animals together, and got her dog, Alexander, last year. "When I travel I tell hotels up front that 'Alexander Dog Cohen' is coming and he is my emotional-needs dog," she said. She acknowledged that the dog is not trained as a service animal.

"He is necessary for my mental health," she said. "I would find myself at loose ends without him."

It is widely accepted that animals can provide emotional benefits to people. "There is a lot of evidence that animals are major antidepressants," said Carole Fudin, a clinical social worker who specializes in the bond between animals and humans. "They give security and are wonderful emotional grease to help people with incapacitating fears like agoraphobia."

Groups of pet owners with specially trained "therapy dogs" have long visited hospitals and volunteered after disasters. Following the 9/11 attack in New York, 100 therapy dogs were enlisted to comfort victims' families at a special center.

But Dr. Fudin said that emotional reliance on an animal can be taken too far. "If a person can't entertain the idea of going out without an animal, that would suggest an extreme anxiety level," she said, "and he or she should probably be on medication, in psychotherapy or both."

The question of when an animal goes from being a pet that provides love and companionship to an emotional-support animal, without which an owner cannot get through a day, is subjective.

Elicia Brand, 36, said the role her Bernese mountain dog played in her life changed drastically after Ms. Brand suffered severe traumas — being trapped on a subway during the 9/11 attack and being raped the next year. "I am a strong person and it almost did me in," she said of the rape. "My dog was my crutch. If I didn't have him I wouldn't be here now." After Sept. 11, Ms. Brand enrolled her dog in disaster relief training and put him through 10 weeks of training so he could be a therapy animal to others as well as herself. The dog now accompanies her everywhere, even to work. She also sees a therapist and takes medication.

One reason it is difficult to sort out the varying levels of dependency people have on their animals is that it is a violation of the disabilities act to inquire about someone's disability, and although service animals are supposed to be trained, there is no definitive list of skills such animals must have.

These days people rely on a veritable Noah's Ark of support animals. Tami McLallen, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said that although dogs are the most common service animals taken onto planes, the airline has had to accommodate monkeys, miniature horses, cats and even an emotional support duck. "Its owner dressed it up in clothes," she recalled.

There have also been at least two instances (on American and Delta) in which airlines have been presented with emotional support goats. Ms. McLallen said the airline flies service animals every day; all owners need to do is show up with a letter from a mental health professional and the animal can fly free in the cabin.

Anthony Milburn, at right with four of his dogs, relies on his pets for emotional well-being.  Credit; Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times


There is no way to know how many of the pets now sitting in coach class or accompanying their owners to dinner at restaurants are trained in health-related tasks. But the fact that dog vests bearing the words "service animal" and wallet-size cards explaining the rights of a support-dog owner are available over the Internet, no questions asked, suggests there is wiggle room for those wishing to exploit it.

One such wallet card proclaims: "This person is accompanied by a Service Dog — an animal individually trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities. Service Dogs are working animals, not pets." On the back is a number to call at the Department of Justice for information about the Americans With Disabilities Act.

One 30-year-old woman, a resident of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., said she does not see a psychotherapist but suffers from anxiety and abandonment issues and learned about emotional-needs dogs from a television show. She ordered a dog vest over the Internet with the words "service dog in training" for one of the several dogs she lives with, even though none are trained as service animals. "Having my dogs with me makes me feel less hostile," said the woman, who refused to give her name.

"I can fine people or have them put in jail if they don't let me in a restaurant with my dogs, because they are violating my rights," she insisted.

In general, business owners seem to extend themselves to accommodate service animals. Though Completely Bare, a chain of health spas in New York and Palm Beach, Fla., has a policy barring animals in treatment rooms, Cindy Barshop, the company's owner, said that she made an exception for a customer who insisted that she needed her large dog for support while she had laser hair removal. "We had to cover the dog with a blanket to protect its eyes during the procedure," Ms. Barshop said.

One area in which business owners have resisted what they see as abuse of the law is housing. Litigators for both tenants and landlords say cases involving people's demands to have service animals admitted to no-pets buildings in New York have risen sharply in the last two years, with rulings often in the tenants' favor.

"If you have backing of a medical professional and you can show a connection between a disabling condition and the keeping of an animal, I have 99.9 percent success," said Karen Copeland, a tenants' lawyer.

One of her current clients maintains that she needs an animal in her apartment because she is a recovering alcoholic and, apart from her pet, all her other friends are drinkers. Another client, Anthony Milburn, lives in Kew Gardens, Queens, with five cocker spaniels and one mixed breed. He says he has severe chest pains from stress and has a note from a social worker saying that he relies on his pets for his emotional well-being. He is pursuing a case against his landlord.

Bradley Silverbush, a partner at Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Schwartz & Nahins, the largest landlord law firm in New York, said people are manipulating the law.

"I'm a dog owner and a dog lover but to claim emotional support is beyond affection," he said. "People send letters from doctors saying the person relies on the animal, or a person has just lost a parent and purchased a Pomeranian. Some doctors will write anything if asked by a patient."

Jerri Cohen, the owner of a jewelry store in Manhattan, said she tried living without animals when she married a man who bought an apartment in a no-dog building. "I went into a severe depression and had to go on medication," she said. "Three years later a friend bought me two pug puppies, and I refused to give them away. My co-op threatened us with eviction. An attorney suggested I get a letter from my psychiatrist. She wrote that I was emotionally needy and the lawyer said that was no good. So she wrote that I can barely function or run my store without them. I won the case.

"They sleep with me," she said. "They have a double stroller. They go to restaurants with me and fly with me."

Credit- Illustration by Hadi Farahani; photograph by Robert Daly/Getty Images 

Q -- Are co-op maintenance charges determined solely by the number of shares allotted per apartment? Should an apartment with more shares always have a higher maintenance charge than one with fewer shares? An apartment in my building with more shares than mine has a considerably lower monthly maintenance charge. If my maintenance is unfair, is there a way I can have the management company rectify it? Curtis Tsui, Jackson Heights, Queens.

A -- Stuart M. Saft, a Manhattan lawyer who is chairman of the Council of New York Cooperatives and Condominiums, said that the standard co-op proprietary lease requires each shareholder to pay a proportionate amount of the building's expenses, based on the number of shares each owns in relation to all the corporation's shares.

So, Mr. Saft said, while it is possible for two same-size apartments to be allocated different numbers of shares -- if, for example, one is on a higher floor or has a better view -- apartments with the same share allocation should pay the same monthly maintenance, and apartments with higher share allocations should pay more than those with fewer shares.

Mr. Saft noted that there are a number of potential explanations for the discrepancy. The most likely, he said, is that the writer's maintenance charge includes fees for additional services or amenities, like storage space or parking, allowed for by the proprietary lease. But it is also possible that the writer is paying more than he should -- a higher per-share charge than others-- in which case he would be entitled to a refund of the overpayment. But, Mr. Saft said, it could be that the writer is paying the appropriate maintenance charge and the other shareholder is paying less than he should -- in which case the other shareholder should be required to reimburse the co-op.

Finally, Mr. Saft said, it is possible that none of the shareholders are paying the appropriate charges because the managing agent has calculated them incorrectly, on a basis other than a per-share basis.

Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Q -- I've been a rent-stabilized tenant for 25 years in a building that went co-op in 1986. My original lease contained no stipulations regarding dogs, and many tenants had dogs. Recently an edict came down from the management that only co-op owners will be allowed to have dogs. Renters would be allowed to keep the dogs they already owned but could not get new ones. Is this legal? David Ferguson, Manhattan.

A -- Karen Copeland, a Manhattan lawyer who specializes in matters involving pets, said that if there is no prohibition in the writer's lease regarding pets, then his right to have a pet -- and to get a replacement -- cannot be limited by the co-op.

Indeed, Ms. Copeland said, since co-ops are required to extend the same services and amenities to rent-stabilized tenants that they extend to shareholders, if shareholders are allowed to have pets then rent-stabilized tenants must also be allowed to have them.

Major Capital Improvements

Q -- Can you tell me whether a major-capital-improvement rent increase becomes part of the base rent in a rent-stabilized apartment? Julie Goodwill, Manhattan.

A -- William J. Neville, a Manhattan lawyer who frequently represents landlords, said that the answer is yes.

A rent increase for a major capital improvement in an apartment building, he said, is calculated by dividing the total cost of the improvement by 84, and then dividing the result by the total number of rooms in the building to get the "per room" increase.

That amount is then multiplied by the number of rooms in an apartment to produce its monthly increase, which then becomes part of the base rent for calculating future rent increases.

Q. I live in a co-op in Floral Park, Queens. No new pets are allowed in the building. Some pets, however, have been grandfathered, and some new pets have been permitted for companionship or illness.

Last October, I asked the board to grant me an exception because I was undergoing infertility treatment and my doctors thought a small dog would help release some of my anxieties. I was informed that I would not be allowed to get a dog.

If exceptions are made for some, shouldn't they be extended to others? . . . Nancy Granatoor, Floral Park, Queens.

A. Karen Copeland, a Manhattan lawyer who specializes in pet issues, said that the federal Fair Housing Act and the New York State Human Rights Law provide that if a person has a mental or physical impairment -- including disabilities like chronic depression -- he or she is entitled to a ''reasonable accommodation'' in housing.

''A reasonable accommodation has been defined as anything that benefits the disabled person in dealing with the limitations of their condition,'' Ms. Copeland said. ''And that can include the nonenforcement of a no-pet rule.''

She said that regardless of whether the board is applying its rules fairly, failure to make a reasonable accommodation for a person with disabilities could be used as a defense against eviction or as the basis for a legal action against the board for discrimination. In either case, Ms. Copeland said, the ultimate determination would be based on the unique and specific facts of the case.

Just Say "Go Away" to Breed Discrimination*
by Karen Copeland, Esq.

Pay more or even lose insurance coverage because of the breed of dog you own? Get Evicted? Read this and know your rights.

Breed-specific legislation and restriction are prohibited in New York State. As such no town or city in this State can enact a law or make a rule that would prevent any particular breed or type of dog from living in that town or city, or ask that particular breeds or types of dogs be subject to restrictions, such as muzzling or mandatory insurance or registration, that other dogs are not required to follow.

Even so, I had a case where a dog was confiscated by a town in Westchester as being an alleged "pit bull" and therefore banned by the municipality as a violation of a ordinance prohibiting such breeds. Actually, the owner was able to prove that the dog was an "Alapahala blue blood bull dog", a rare breed distinct from the "pit bull" type line. It could have just as easily been a pit bull, an American pit bull terrier, an American Staffordshire, an English Staffordshire, a dogo argentino, a boxer, an American bull dog, a mastiff, a Labrador retriever or some mix of any of the above.

The person who made the determination that this dog was of the contraband "pit bull type" was the intake clerk at the local shelter who had no formal training or education in animal behavior or breed determination. With the testimony of an animal behaviorist, Peter Borschelt, Ph. D., the judge was convinced that the statute was unconstitutionally vague, and that due to the fact that many of the "pit bull type" breeds are actually recently created breeds made by mixing of various other breeds. As such, most individual dogs could not be definitely identified as being of one breed or another, unless the dog's parents were known.

Insurance Discrimination

Private insurance companies, however, try to make their own rules. Several have been reported to attempt to cancel or fail to cover a homeowner because of a particular breed of dog is in the home. Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows, Mastiffs, Presa Canarios, Akitas, Staffordshire Terriers, Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malmutes have all reportedly been subjected to at least some form of "breed discrimination" from insurance companies. New York State Senator Dean Skelos (R-C, Rockville Centre) has introduced a bill in the State Senate to prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against homeowners and policyholders based upon the breed of a family pet.

But while some insurance companies may try to cancel or refuse to indemnify, there are many other insurance companies who make no distinction whatsoever among breeds. So the best defense for owners of dogs of all breeds would be to buy insurance with one of the many companies who don't discriminate based upon breed, and to refuse to do business with those who do. If you're not sure, ask.

Tough Life = Bad Rep

Breed discrimination also takes the form of the victimization of certain breeds, like pit bulls, that are favored by dog fighters and drug dealers. Abuse of a companion animal is now a felony in New York State, as well as several other states throughout the country.

(Interestingly, this is largely in response to recent studies by the FBI which showed conclusively that many serial killers and mass murders started their nefarious careers as animal abusers.) Dog fighting and cruel training methods and treatment given to animals encouraged to fight are now crimes for which the animal abuser may receive a prison sentence for a period in excess of a year.

Unfortunately, these so-called "fighting dogs" like pit bulls and Doberman pinschers, are the ones that end up being branded as dangerous. Most experts are in agreement that it is not a breed, but the treatment given the individual animal which determines whether that dog is a risk for unacceptable or dangerous behavior. Pit bulls and Doberman pinschers, regrettibly, seem to attract a disproportionate number of owners who are abusive and cruel to them, often with tragic consequences for the animals and people as well. Hopefully, the police authorities will vigorously enforce the felony laws against animal abuse which will ultimately result in less incidents of attacks by dogs upon people.

up pointer Top of Column 2

Your Rights As a Tenant

In a city like ours, certain breeds of dogs may be objected to by landlords or neighbors who express fear of having a pit bull, say, in a multiple unit dwelling. However, having a particular breed of dog in residence, in and of itself, cannot be the basis for an eviction proceeding. In order for a landlord to prevail in a dog-based "nuisance" claim, it must be proven that the dog is a "substantial and unreasonable interference with the rights of other tenants." Also, the fact that other tenants may be afraid of the dog is not sufficient to sustain an eviction proceeding.

In order to be adjudicated as a "nuisance", such that the owner might find himself evicted, a tenant or his dog must do something really bad on a regular ongoing basis. One bad act cannot be "nuisance", by its definition. The complained of behavior has to be part of a continuous ongoing pattern of behavior, and the landlord must prove it in court with the testimony of other tenants who have actually witnessed or experienced in a first hand way some bad act of the dog in question.

Similarly, in a personal injury case, the plaintiff must prove that the owner of the dog was aware that the dog had a "dangerous or vicious propensity" before the owner is held "strictly liable" for the actions of the animal. The Appellate Division of New York State has ruled that neither the pit bull nor the German shepherd dog can be considered "inherently dangerous" by virtue of its breed alone. Additional evidence is necessary to prove that an owner is or was aware of an animal's dangerous propensity, before "strict liability" against the owner will be found by the court.

Avoiding Problems

Yet, in spite of laws to the contrary, owners of pit bull type dogs, as well as Dobermans, German shepherds and dogs that may look like those dogs are often the victims of discrimination based upon fear or unfounded opinions.

It makes sense to respect the fact that others may have a preconceived fear, however irrational, and to keep the dog away from such people. Get the next elevator; let others go through the door first. Avoid dog runs or urban areas where dogs are "off leash". Keep the dog away from children that aren't family members. Don't let anyone but an adult walk the dog. Consult an animal behaviorist in regard to any behavioral problems.

In a private home setting, the pit bull type dog should have a yard with a fence of six feet high and a locking gate. These measures are to protect the dog from the public as much as it may be to protect the public from the dog, as the dog is often the victim of theft and vandalism by professional dog fighters or drug dealers, as well as youthfully ignorant pranksters.

As an attorney representing people facing evictions for animals in the home, many of my clients have animals of the pit bull persuasion. One word is unvariably use to describe the dog: ""mush". They all report that the dogs are incredibly personable, lovable and affectionate, ever interested in playing and participating in family activities. The pit bull is always a big baby and must sit in a lap if one is available. The pit bull wants to sleep in the bed, under the covers with head on the pillow, keeping his or her favorite human warm and feeling comforted. I have had cases where people had other dogs but"" under the federal Fair Housing Act, as an emotional support animal. The dogs would sit with the disabled persons throughout the day and provide the attentive companionship that would distract them from being in pain or from the limitations of the disabling condition.

Still, certain breeds, like pit bulls are not for every owner but for experienced and responsible people willing to go the extra mile to protect their dog from the public and provide the type of special care and attention that this high-energy animal requires. That special owner will be rewarded with the unconditional love and attention and devotion of a dog with incredible spirit, character and personality.

Karen Copeland is an attorney in private practice in New York focusing on issues pertaining to animals. She may be reached at 212-560-7154 or


IAN NETUPSKY, a 36-year-old bond salesman, recently drove up to his home in Huntington Station, N.Y., to find a knot of curious neighbors standing outside. Up went Mr. Netupsky's anxiety level -- and down went his black Labrador, Quinn, coaxed quickly into lying low to avoid detection.

''I think it was in the back seat,'' one woman said outside the gray and green town house as Mr. Netupsky pulled his Volvo into the safety of the garage. ''I couldn't quite see inside,'' another man said.

Indoors, the drawn living room blinds kept the neighbors from seeing Quinn stretched out on the floor. The whole exercise, Mr. Netupsky said, was ''pathetic.''

Quinn is more than a best friend to Mr. Netupsky, who suffers from depression and insomnia. Without her, he said, ''I become a miserable human being in every way that you can think of.''

But to his neighbors, Quinn, who weighs 70 pounds, is a flagrant violation of community rules barring animals that weigh more than 45. Last year, the co-op board ordered Mr. Netupsky to remove his dog from the community, and he agreed to put $7,400 in escrow to cover $100-a-day fines should Quinn be discovered there. ''I get so angry,'' Mr. Netupsky said. ''I just want to be left alone.''

Mr. Netupsky, who expects a legal hearing on his case next month, is part of a growing group of homeowners and renters who argue that they should be able to keep their pets even if community or building rules forbid them. Lawyers have argued that under 1988 amendments to the federal Fair Housing Act, landlords and co-op boards can be forced to allow tenants with mental or emotional disabilities to keep pets that act as ''emotional support animals.''

''People are coming out of the closet with their emotional difficulties,'' Maddy Tarnofsky, a New York lawyer who has handled nearly 40 such cases since 2000, said. ''The idea of an emotional support animal is no longer laughable.''

To establish disability, tenants must show that their conditions impair a ''major life activity.'' Most landlords understand guide dogs for the blind or hearing dogs for the deaf. What is harder for some to accept is that people with mental disabilities -- handicaps that aren't visible to the naked eye -- may also keep companion animals in buildings that normally wouldn't allow pets.

For now, the bulk of the cases involve people with serious mental conditions. But landlords and co-op boards wonder whether some pet owners will claim disabilities simply to circumvent stringent rules barring animals. Particularly in a city like New York, where many residents are still coping with the stress of the Sept. 11 attacks, building owners fear that current cases may open the door to a flood of requests.

''The question is, Where do you draw the line?'' said Robert Braverman, a lawyer who has represented seven New York co-op and condo boards in animal-related cases since 2000. He said that in one recent case at a Brooklyn co-op, he was skeptical of the tenant's claim that her emotional health would be damaged if the board forced her to get rid of her dog.

''My feeling is that if you have a dog, no matter what your emotional condition may be, it's going to be sad to get rid of the animal,'' Mr. Braverman said.

The rise in animal-related disputes seems to be driven in part by the growing acceptance of depression as a disability, coupled with new scientific evidence linking animals to reductions in stress and in feelings of isolation, and even to an increased likelihood of living longer.

The federal Transportation Department last month clarified its guidelines governing pets on airplanes. Now, along with animals that help guide the blind and the deaf, those that give emotional support are allowed to accompany passengers who have letters from their doctors or therapists.

Still, ''to say that somebody with a disability should have a different application of a rule is hard for a lot of people to swallow,'' said Michael Allen, a senior staff lawyer at the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington. ''It takes a while for a society to catch up with a progressive civil rights law.''

Robert Tierman, a New York lawyer who represents co-op and condo boards, expresses a fear shared by many co-op officials and landlords. ''If it's just a matter of a shrink saying the patient suffers from mild depression,'' he said, ''the co-op would say that doesn't constitute a disability under any of the applicable laws. If we grant an exemption, it would virtually open the door wide.''

Ms. Tarnofsky said she would not go to bat for every tenant who is facing a tough patch and loves his Lab. Breaking up with a boyfriend or losing a job ''is not enough,'' she said, adding, ''I tell people it should be more than everyday garden-variety walking-around-New York depression.''

The co-op board at the 100-unit town house community where Mr. Netupsky and his wife, Allison, live has in fact questioned whether he is as ill as he says, though a letter from Mr. Netupsky's therapist stated that Quinn is necessary for him ''to maintain a sense of emotional stability.''

Marvin F. Milich, a lawyer for the board, wrote to the State Division of Human Rights, which is handling the case, that Mr. Netupsky had failed to establish the existence of an illness requiring a pet as a cure.

Last year, after signing an agreement with the co-op board, Mr. Netupsky did send Quinn to a friend's house for several months. Last week, Karen Copeland, a Manhattan lawyer who represents Mr. Netupsky, said she received a letter from Mr. Milich saying that the board would claim the entire $7,400 from escrow because board members said they had seen Quinn in Mr. Netupsky's unit.

Mr. Milich did not return calls seeking comment. Andrew Crabtree, another lawyer for the board, declined to comment. Kenneth Murena and Stephen Scialdone, president and secretary of the co-op board, did not return calls for comment.

Mr. Netupsky said he has been treated by a therapist since 1998, and has suffered severe sleeping disorders and depression since his mother died of breast cancer in 1995, followed by the death of his father in 1998. He is taking medication for insomnia and anxiety.

His relationship with Quinn is undeniably intense. He has a tattoo of the dog on his back. Quinn provides ''unconditional love that I don't see or get anywhere else,'' Mr. Netupsky said. His wife admits that she is sometimes jealous. ''I've never met anyone who has felt this way about their dog and is so emotionally attached,'' she said. ''When she's not there, he's depressed and very difficult to live with.''

In Fairfield, Conn., Sharon Cregeen, a lawyer, said her cases involving emotional support pets have more than doubled over three years. And in Springfield, Vt., Meris Bergquist, a staff lawyer at Vermont Legal Aid, said she has had eight such cases in the past year, up from only one case two years ago.

IN addition to filing lawsuits, tenants or homeowners can submit complaints to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. David Enzel, a deputy assistant secretary in the department's fair housing office, said, ''We do get a steady stream of these cases, whereas we didn't have nearly as many five or six years ago.''

In New York, where brokers say only 1 in 10 buildings admits pets, six cases were filed with the State Division of Human Rights last year. (In 1998, there were none.) This month, the New York City Bar Association offered an evening course that included material on emotional support animals.

Ms. Copeland, who represents tenants, said 95 percent of the dozens of cases she has handled since 1995 have been settled before trial, usually in the tenants' favor. But Mr. Braverman, the lawyer who has represented co-op and condo boards, said that is often because tenants have to show ''very little evidence'' of illness and ''the owner does not have a real opportunity to determine the veracity of the allegations.''

Other landlords and co-op officials agree. ''It's so ephemeral,'' said Stephen Chesnoff, board president at a large Upper East Side co-op. ''What is emotional need?'' Last year, the board dropped an eviction case against a woman with a dog, concluding that a court fight would be too expensive once she produced letters from her doctors.

Dr. Ricardo Castaneda, director of inpatient psychiatry at Bellevue Hospital Center, agreed that it is difficult to prove that someone needs a dog to stay well. But he said one private patient he treated for depression, a 56-year-old musician and dog-walker named Jay Ward, improved after adopting Rocky, a 7-year-old fluffy white bichon frisé.

''Could a different antidepressant have done the same?'' Dr. Castaneda asked. ''Perhaps. But if he were to be separated from this dog, he would be at risk of a reoccurrence of his depression.''

When Mr. Ward called his landlord to say he intended to keep Rocky in the down-at-the-heels building on Riverside Drive where he has lived for 27 years, the owner threatened to evict him. He wrote the landlord explaining his condition, including a letter from Dr. Castaneda. Mr. Ward said he has not heard from his landlord since.

Nicholas Brusco, a lawyer for Mr. Ward's landlord, Arthur Yanni Realty in Yonkers, declined to comment. Calls to Arthur Yanni were not returned.

While Mr. Ward's lawyer said she believes he will be able to stay in his apartment, for which he pays less than $600 a month, other pet owners have left their buildings. Elicia, 33, who asked that her last name be withheld because of an unrelated court case, moved in April from the Upper East Side apartment where she had lived for 12 years so she could keep McCoy, her 2-year-old Bernese mountain dog.

She said she suffers from an autoimmune disease as well as seizures and has been treated by two therapists since 1999.

Nearly two years ago, her landlord took her to housing court for violating the building's no-pets rule. Although Elicia said many tenants in the building owned animals, she agreed to remove the dog. The landlord later sued her for legal costs, and the court ordered her to pay $10,500.

Then last October, Elicia said, she was raped. In April, she moved to another Midtown building and was reunited with McCoy. The 112-pound dog sleeps in her bed. Glossy shots of woman and dog decorate the spacious one-bedroom apartment.

Now, with a case pending before the State Division of Human Rights, Elicia said she hopes she will be compensated for ''the loss of my home'' and be relieved of the $10,500 judgment. (Her former landlord, Vincent Q. Giffuni, did not return calls, and his lawyer, Ida Greer, declined to comment.)

Elicia said she didn't regret fighting for her dog. ''He saved my life,'' she said.

A RECENT ruling by a Manhattan appeals court may make it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants who violate no-pet clauses in their leases.

On Dec. 13, the Appellate Division, First Department -- which covers Manhattan and the Bronx -- threw out an eviction action brought by the Seward Park Housing Corporation, a co-op on the Lower East Side, against a shareholder who violated the building's ''no pet'' policy.

Tenant lawyers say the ruling is a victory for tenants who are pet owners in that it clearly articulates a building owner's responsibilities under the New York City Pet Law -- a 1983 ordinance that requires building owners to take action against tenants who harbor unauthorized pets within 90 days of learning of the pet's presence in the building.

Managing agents and lawyers for property owners and co-op boards, however, say that the ruling places an enormous burden on building owners -- by making a legal presumption that the owner is aware of the existence of an unauthorized pet if virtually any employee or contracted worker in the building is aware of it --and can end up rendering no pet policies almost impossible to enforce.

As a result of the ruling, the Pet Law may be applied differently in Manhattan and the Bronx than it is in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, where courts now apply another standard.

''What the court seems to have said here is that in order to enforce a no-pet rule, a building owner basically has to deputize everybody who works in the building,'' said Jeffrey R. Metz, a Manhattan lawyer who represented Seward Park.

According to a synopsis of the facts of the case in the court's 4-to-1 ruling, on Sept. 13, 1996, Max Cohen, a tenant-shareholder in a 1,728-unit co-op at 415 Grand Street, purchased a 4-month-old puppy he named Rocky. Notwithstanding a clause in his lease that prohibited pets in the building, Mr. Cohen kept the dog in his apartment. Writing for the majority of the Appellate Court, Justice John T. Buckley indicated it was undisputed that Mr. Cohen would take the dog out for walks and that security guards, maintenance workers and porters at the building saw the dog, petted it and played with it ''on a daily basis.''

At trial, however, according to the court's ruling, the managing agent testified that the security guards, the maintenance personnel and the porters were not required to report tenants' harboring of pets. In fact, Judge Buckley wrote, it was pointed out by the managing agent that the security guards were not employees of Seward Park, but were instead employees of an independent security company. Moreover, the agent testified that reporting illegal pets was not among the duties required of the maintenance workers and porters because it was not included in their union contract.

At the same time, however, Justice Buckley indicated, there was no proof offered during the trial as to what the applicable guidelines were for reporting the harboring of illegal pets. Indeed, the court found, ''there was no proof offered that any person or persons on the property, including resident board members, were charged with the duty of reporting such lease violations.''

As a result, the court ruled that for purposes of triggering the 90-day requirement in the Pet Law, an owner can be presumed to have notice of the presence of an illegal pet if it is in the building ''openly and notoriously'' -- a term used in the Pet Law itself.

''Common sense dictates that landlords will have an agent or employee checking the property regularly,'' Justice Buckley wrote in the decision, adding that the use of the phrase ''openly and notoriously'' in the ordinance ''shows a legislative intention to presume knowledge on the part of the landlord.'' The court then ruled that since more than 90 days had passed between the time Mr. Cohen brought Rocky into the building -- walking him past the guards, maintenance personnel and porters -- and the commencement of the eviction action, the co-op corporation had failed to comply with the 90-day requirement of the Pet Law. As a result, the eviction case was dismissed.

''This decision is disturbing,'' said Robert Grant, director of management for Midboro Management in Manhattan. ''It places new burdens on building owners by expanding the definition of an owner's agent to include all building employees, including doormen and porters and, incredibly, even the employees of security guard companies hired to work in the building.''

In fact, Mr. Grant said, the court's ruling creates some difficult problems for owners and managing agents. For example, he said, if a maintenance worker who usually has no contact with tenants sees someone in the building with a dog, how is the worker going to report the incident to the managing agent if he doesn't know the tenant's name?

Moreover, Mr. Grant said, since there are often legal pets even in buildings with no-pet policies -- usually because the pets were there before the policy was adopted -- how are employees like maintenance workers and porters to know which pets are legal and which ones are not? The issue becomes even more vexing, Mr. Grant said, in cases where security guards working for an independent company are rotated in and out of the building by the security company.

''Obviously, an owner or managing agent doesn't control the employees of an outside guard service,'' he said.

Karen Copeland, a Manhattan lawyer who frequently represents tenants facing eviction because of pets, said that the recent ruling makes sense and that it clarifies the requirements of the Pet Law as to when an owner or managing agent is deemed to have notice of an unauthorized pet in a building.

''It has never really been clearly explained just who it is who has to see a pet for the owner to have notice,'' Ms. Copeland said. ''There have been a couple of cases where people walked around with dogs for years, right in front of security guards, and that didn't count as actual notice to the landlord.'' She said the standard applied by the court, known as constructive notice, is appropriate because it imputes knowledge on the part of the owner for things he should have known or could have known without requiring proof of actual knowledge.

While the recent ruling may be good for pet-owning tenants in Manhattan and the Bronx, the judicial district covered by the First Department, it may not have the same effect on tenants in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island because courts in those boroughs are in the Second Department, which currently applies a different standard.

''An appellate court in a Brooklyn case said that employees and independent contractors of the landlord are not his agents for purposes of reporting a Pet Law violation,'' Ms. Copeland said, adding that this is not the only aspect of the Pet Law over which the two departments are divided.

The Appellate Division in the Second Department, for example, has ruled that condominiums are covered by the law, while its counterpart in the First Department has ruled that they are not. And while courts in the First Department have generally ruled that owners must have started the eviction proceeding within 90 days, courts in the Second Department have allowed cases to proceed when a Notice of Termination was served on the tenant within 90 days but the actual eviction proceeding was started later. ''In a nutshell, that means that you can be treated differently under the law depending on where you live,'' Ms. Copeland said.

Mr. Metz, the lawyer for Seward Park, said his client had not decided whether to appeal the decision.

City landlords, co-op boards and neighbors are pushing for stricter regulations on dogs in the wake of the much-publicized murder conviction of a San Francisco couple whose two attack dogs fatally mauled a Long Island native.

On Wednesday, Marjorie Knoller was found guilty of second-degree murder and her husband, Robert Noel, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, for allowing their 120-pound Presa Canarios to viciously kill neighbor Diane Whipple, a 33-year-old college lacrosse coach.

Feiza Quirshi, of Croman Real Estate, said dog owners are on a much shorter leash now as landlords, apartment managers and insurance companies re-examine liability issues surrounding the ownership of potentially deadly pets.

“I feel there’s a big change in attitude now since the [murder convictions],” said Quirshi.

“Some owners are now charging extra security.”

Manhattan animal-rights lawyer Karen Copeland agreed, saying the case is bringing new scrutiny on dog owners.

“If you have a dog that’s dangerous or has a propensity to be dangerous, it better be a model citizen nowadays,” Copeland warned.

“Everything’s changed since the murder-by-dog convictions.”

Dog owner Lisa Nelson, walking her 8-month-old collie, Connor, on the Upper West Side yesterday afternoon, said, “it’s much more of an issue now. I try even harder to make sure my dog’s on his leash.”

But Renee Danger-James, president of the co-op board at 1825 Riverside Drive, a 42-unit apartment building in Manhattan’s Inwood section, said they won’t change their open-pet policy.

“Our building is and always will be pet-friendly,” said Danger-James.

IN this dog-eat-dog real-estate market, it's no surprise that dogs are having a tough time.

Plenty of buildings ban dogs outright. Others impose conditions, written or unwritten: Fido rides in the freight car, Toto gets toted through the lobby, Rover requires a big security deposit, Balto had better not bark.

Though no one keeps formal track, dog policies -- whether in rentals, co-ops or condominiums -- tend to loosen and tighten along with the market. And the current market is about as tight as it has ever been.

Buildings are ''slowly making more restrictive policies,'' said Gregory Carlson, president of the Federation of New York Housing Cooperatives. ''Now that buildings are not having any vacancy problems, they can be more discriminatory about who they let in.'' A spate of news stories about scary dogs doesn't help, said Mr. Carlson -- nor do inconsiderate dog owners who fail to clean up after their dogs.

Finding co-ops for her dog-owning clients has become increasingly difficult, said Madeleine Dale, a real-estate broker for Douglas Elliman West Side. ''The rules have been very strict and tightening over the last five years,'' she said. ''We have become even more crowded. There is very little space, and scarce resources prompt a lot of battling.''

Though brokers try to keep up with buildings' dog policies, the policies change often -- sometimes after turnover on a co-op board, sometimes after a problem with an existing dog, sometimes for no apparent reason.

''The boards have gotten very picky,'' said Ms. Dale, who has a 75-pound Scottish deerhound named Layla. ''We have very few properties to offer and I think the boards sense their power. They don't have to have any reason at all when they decline you.''

Getting into a rental can be even tougher. There are always dog-loving buildings, of course. Ms. Dale rents an apartment in the Apthorp at Broadway and 79th Street, a building so dog-friendly that the staff keeps biscuits on hand for dogs returning from their walks. And some landlords encourage dog ownership for security reasons.

Still, with worries about incessant barking, odiferous dog droppings and damage to the building, a landlord will almost always take a non-dog-owning tenant over a dog owner, said Brian G. Edwards, director of leasing for the Halstead Property Company. ''When buildings were hurting for tenants in the early 1990's, pet policies were much more forgiving,'' he said. ''Now it's canine non grata.''

Though some buildings have blanket no-pet rules, these in fact tend to be no-dog policies, say lawyers and those who deal with pet issues. Cats and other stay-at-home animals may never even emerge from the apartment. ''Practically speaking, unless a cat is let out of a dwelling unit or you have an odor emanating from the apartment, you're fighting something you don't know about,'' said Mr. Carlson, the co-op federation president. The biggest problem with cat ownership tends to be drains clogged by kitty litter, which clumps when wet. Only on isolated occasions are there problems with outlawed animals, which include wild animals, endangered species and farm animals kept in built-up areas of the city.

But even as it gets harder for dog owners to find a new home, it may be easier for them to remain there once they do. No-pet clauses on leases for rental apartments are largely unenforceable, say lawyers who deal with pet issues. Laws come down squarely on the side of the pet-owning inhabitant, and proposed legislation in the City Council would make it even easier to keep a pet.

In many ways, New York is exceedingly dog-friendly. Manhattan features 15 public dog runs, plus plenty of services for the metropolitan mutt: doggie day camp, obedience school, grooming parlors. Studies indicate that pets enhance emotional health and provide needed companionship in single-person households, which are legion in New York. And dogs, being socially uninhibited, let their owners engage with their urban neighbors in ways they never do when they're unaccompanied by their animal.

''In buildings with lots of pets there's a lot of interaction among people,'' said Dr. Peter Borchelt, an animal behaviorist at the Animal Medical Center. ''Everyone knows each other because of the pets. You now have a happier building. If you insist on having no pet problems because you insist on having no pets, you are going to have a different type of building.''

And when it comes time to sell? It's easier to sell a unit in a building that permits dogs, said Mitchell Speer, an associate broker at the William B. May Company. Even buyers without dogs often prefer to buy in a dog-friendly building, he said. ''What if someone wants to pay them full asking price and has a dog?'' Mr. Speer said. ''If the building restricts dogs, you're cutting out a major proportion of the buying market.''

For buyers who do have a dog, the dog policy is often the deal-breaker when it comes to housing decisions. ''People are more willing to pay a higher price or look forever or buy an apartment they thought wasn't perfect,'' said Christine O'Neal, a Halstead broker. Twice recently, she said, she sold apartments solely because they allowed a dog. Both cases involved a bidding war. ''They were willing to go up just to get the dog in,'' she said.

Alberto Shayo certainly is. Because of Kita, his seven-pound poodle mix, he has had a frustrating, and so far unsuccessful, search to rent a unit in a full-service condominium building on the East Side. ''It is a very harsh, hostile environment,'' he said. ''I always tell them upfront about the dog, but because the market is tight now, they are no longer O.K. with dogs.'' Mr. Shayo, an art dealer, has expanded his search boundaries as well as his price range. ''What can I do?'' he said. ''I am desperate.''

DOGS, unlike cats or other pets, inhabit the public space. They walk in and out, ride up and down, and make loud noises. They also lunge and snap, sniff impolitely, snuffle their noses in the baby carriage, come eye to eye with toddlers, shed on the carpet, and shake off vigorously after romping through the rain. These are things neighbors don't necessarily like to be subjected to in their homes.

Dog restrictions are intended to achieve a happy medium. Some buildings say dogs must be carried when in the elevator and in the lobby. Others make dogs ride in the service elevator when it's available -- a practice some owners find insulting. Often, if a human is on the elevator and doesn't want to ride with a dog, the dog waits.

Some buildings limit a dog's size, though animal experts say this policy is wrongheaded. ''Larger dogs make better apartment dogs -- they don't require as much activity,'' said Jody Jones, director of adoptions for the Center for Animal Care and Control, which functions as the city's dog pound. ''A 125-pound mastiff will lie around and sleep all day. Smaller dogs are more yippy and run all over the furniture.''

Some buildings also restrict the number of dogs per apartment. At the Bamford, at 333 East 56th Street, for example, tenants can have up to two dogs, each weighing 15 pounds or less -- but the dog-owning household must reside in a two-bedroom apartment or larger. Other buildings are leery of breeds reputed to be aggressive, like pit bulls and Rottweilers. Many buildings have a grandfather policy that permits existing dogs to stay but prohibits new dogs -- a practice that often leads to accusations of unfairness from those who see their neighbors with dogs but can't have dogs themselves. Real-estate agents tell of cases where a deceased dog has been replaced, discreetly, with a lookalike pooch.

A grand urban legend has it that some co-op boards interview dogs along with their owners. That hardly ever happens -- ''only on an individual basis or for a special concern,'' said Iris Palley, a broker for Douglas Elliman East Side who specializes in finding apartments for dog owners. ''There is no co-op that says you have to bring the dog to the interview,'' said Ms. Palley, who owns a poodle named Alice and also designs and sells barrettes for dogs with topknots. ''The exception is if you have a lot of dogs or if your dog is enormous, like a little pony.'' It's more common for a co-op board to require some material about the dog, she said -- information on its breed and weight; references from a veterinarian, groomer, trainer or neighbor; perhaps a photograph.

In a very few cases, though, the manager or superintendent screens the dog. At New York Towers, a large post-war co-op at 305 East 24th Street that lifted its dog ban nearly four years ago, the on-site manager, Steve Nardoni, meets all incoming dogs. He sees about three a year.

''It takes five minutes,'' said Mr. Nardoni, whose own dog, a poodle named Max, occasionally accompanies him to work. ''The board doesn't want me to put the dog through a psychiatric drill. I think responsible dog owners understand that, in a cooperative community, there are certain things they have to go through.''

One dog that passed the screen -- actually, Mr. Nardoni has never rejected a dog -- was Brownie, a cocker spaniel owned by Izumi Hayashi and her husband, Frank Pupo. ''They wanted to make sure the dog is not loud, noisy, scary-looking and all that stuff,'' said Ms. Hayashi, a financial analyst who moved in three years ago. ''He pretty much just wagged the tail and walked around and gave everybody some kisses and that was it.''

Mr. Nardoni also checked out Zoe, a shepherd mix acquired by long-time residents Pearl and John Harrington shortly after the building began allowing dogs. ''Since we were able to be with her, if there was any problem we could correct it,'' said Mrs. Harrington, who works from home. The Harringtons trained Zoe so that ''when she gets into the elevator she will go into a corner and sit,'' said Mrs. Harrington.

One 85-unit co-op in the East 60's that intends to lift its no-dog policy will not require a screening but does plan to institute extensive written rules. (The manager would describe the plans only if the building was not identified because the board has not yet approved the policy.) The proposed policy states that dog owners will pay additional maintenance of $50 a month and put down a $1,000 security deposit. Dogs would have to be leashed when on common property and use the service elevator, even on weekends and holidays. Dog-related garbage would have to be bagged and placed in the incinerator, with dog-food cans rinsed and recycled. Dogs could not be groomed in the hallway. Repeated complaints by other shareholders would be grounds for a fine and, eventually, eviction.

''Younger people are moving into the building and seem to want dogs,'' the manager said. The board is ''trying to formulate something that works for everybody.''

ACCUSATIONS can fly when a board starts enforcing a previously ignored ban. That apparently happened to Judith H. McQuown, who six years ago bought a garden apartment expressly because she was planning to get a dog. ''I asked whether dogs were permitted and pointed out that was why I bought a garden apartment,'' said Ms. McQuown, a writer of business books who lives at 315 East 72d Street, a postwar co-op. ''I was assured yes, this was a dog building.''

A few years after Ms. McQuown acquired a stray Scottish terrier, Hamish, she began receiving letters accusing her of harboring a dog in violation of the rules, she said. ''They started attaching late fees to my maintenance payments and hitting me with legal fees,'' she said. After she hired a lawyer, the board backed off. Now, with new members on the board, dogs are allowed.

''As long as people aren't complaining about your dogs in terms of noise or safety, people are left alone,'' said William Boak, the current president of the co-op board and owner of a yellow Labrador retriever named Scout. But now that dogs are allowed, he said, ''we've had a proliferation of dogs,'' with nearly 50 canines in the 218-unit building. Because the building has grown so dog-dense, the board is considering formalizing the dog policy, Mr. Boak said. This might include a point system for bad behavior, so if a dog racks up a certain number of points, it would be subject to eviction.

An abrupt change in policy also angered Andrew Visconti of 23 West 73d Street, owner of an English bulldog named Petunia. A year and a half ago, the building, which had a nonexistent dog policy, outlawed four large breeds as well as pit bulls, and required dog owners to maintain personal liability insurance for at least $500,000, among other things, said Craig Wilson, a member of the co-op board.

''Five hundred thousand dollars is outrageously high,'' said Mr. Visconti, who sent Petunia to obedience school at the age of four months. ''I don't like the feeling of being a renter with the landlord telling me what to do.''

Much ill will ensued, along with several formal and informal meetings among interested parties.

Mr. Visconti is looking to move, partly because he is disgusted with the dog episode. ''It creates policing,'' said Mr. Visconti, a correspondent for an Italian newspaper syndicate. ''If it's a problem that a dog might have an accident, it is the same as someone taking the garbage to the garbage area and the bag is leaking and grease gets on the carpeting. Are we going to start assessing fines for that? The assumption is that dog owners are dirty, irresponsible people who abuse the patience of our neighbors.''

Dog waste, for sure, is a sensitive and delicate problem.

''Everyone's dog has had an accident,'' said Charlotte Reed, owner of the pet-care service Two Dogs & A Goat. ''It happens. That's what having a dog is. The considerate dog owner is going to clean up after the dog or tell the doorman, tell the super.''

But not everyone is considerate. Winter is a bad time of year at the Fairview, a building at 61-20 Grand Central Parkway in Forest Hills, Queens, which has a large indoor garage. ''If it's cold out, they let the dog do its business in the garage or the stairwells,'' said Mr. Carlson of the co-op federation, who is also the building's manager. It happens about a dozen times each winter, he said.

Then there's barking -- a particular problem in postwar buildings, where sound is likely to resonate. ''The neighbors don't give you much time to deal with it,'' said Dr. Laura Robbins, a veterinarian at the Center for Veterinary Care. ''People will get nasty letters under their door immediately.''

Though proper training can fix almost any problem, it usually takes a few weeks. For those needing quicker solutions, there are anti-bark collars, anti-anxiety medications and, as a last resort, vocal cord removal.

Lawyers say the recent changes in rent regulations, which allow for substantial increases when the lease turns over, provide an incentive for landlords to try to evict longtime renters. Pets can be a handy excuse. But except when it comes to nuisance pets -- ones that create ongoing, persistent problems, like nonstop noise -- the law tends to be on the pet owner's side.

Section 27-2009.1 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, often called the pet law, has been in effect since 1983. Not coincidentally, the law dates from another time when the real-estate market was tight, said Elinor Molbegott, who at that time was counsel to the A.S.P.C.A. and helped promote the legislation. The pet law says that if a tenant has harbored a pet ''openly and notoriously'' for at least three months, any no-pet regulations in multiple-dwelling leases are deemed waived and unenforceable. In other words, an owner or landlord who knows about a pet must file eviction papers within three months of gaining ''knowledge'' of the animal. Otherwise, the animal can stay.

The pet law supersedes a co-op's own no-pet rules, says Stuart Saft, chairman of the Council of New York Co-operatives. Even if a co-op's board has banned dogs, he said, ''The courts have provided that the pet law applies.'' Co-op shareholders are tenants within the meaning of the law, he said, and ''the proprietary lease is subject to the law, and the law says you have to move within three months to evict the pet.''

UNDER proposed city legislation, pet owners would gain even more rights. Anyone over age 62 would be entitled to keep a pet. And the three-month window for eviction would apply to the first pet only, not to replacement pets. Basically, it would grandfather not just a pet but the right to have a pet, said Darryl Vernon, a lawyer who deals with pet issues. A grandfather clause that lets existing pets stay but doesn't let them be replaced ''is a terrible policy,'' said Mr. Vernon. ''You have elderly people, home alone, with no more pets.''

The Federal Fair Housing Act is also invoked on behalf of pet owners, said Karen Copeland, another lawyer who deals with pet issues. It says that people with disabilities -- any mental or physical impairment -- are entitled to reasonable accommodation. That can include a pet that's medically necessary, said Ms. Copeland. ''Everyone knows a blind person can keep a dog, but so can someone with chronic depression or an invisible disability,'' she said. ''I have a client with a chronic lung disease, and the pet keeps her calm and helps keep her from reverting to a smoking habit.''

The city's pet law constitutes ''a fairly easy defense, but it's not clear cut,'' said Ms. Copeland. For example, it applies to co-ops and rentals citywide, and to condominiums in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. But it doesn't apply to condominiums in Manhattan and the Bronx. That's because the pet law covers only lease agreements, and -- in the opinion of the Appellate Court covering Manhattan and the Bronx -- the owner-board relationship does not constitute a lease agreement.

People who violate a building's dog restrictions by having a too-big dog, say, or too many dogs, would also be protected by the pet law, lawyers said. But if they flout a rule that dogs use the freight elevator? Such a situation has not been tested in the courts, lawyers said, and it's unclear whether such a rule would be enforceable.

''A shareholder is wise to follow such a policy'' in case the dog ''does foul carpet in the passenger elevator'' and is accused of being a nuisance, said Arthur I. Weinstein, a lawyer who is vice president of the Council of New York Cooperatives, but it's unclear ''whether the co-op can enforce such a restriction without any negative conduct by the animal.''

Ms. Copeland told of one client who kept a poodle in her Manhattan co-op: ''They desperately wanted her to use the freight elevator, but she said nix to that.'' The case was settled out of court. ''She's still taking the front elevator,'' Ms. Copeland said.

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