Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Keeping the world safe from basset hounds, one luxury building at a time


It's easy to ridicule the basset-hound-hating 170 West End Ave. co-op board, but somebody's got to protect the world from these beasts ("renowned," according to the caption for a different Wikipedia photo, "for their gentle, docile demeanor"), don't they?

"The whole thing is just ridiculous because, at the end of the day, it's about dog owners being responsible."
-- a resident of 170 West End Ave. (many declined to
be identified, out of concern for the co-op board)

by Ken

170 West End Ave.
Shucks, here I was, all set to man the Trump presidential beat. ("We need a truly great leader," says The Donald -- as he offers up himself instead. Does this even need a punch line?) But before we can get to that, I think we have to deal with this bit of local breaking news.

Every time you think you've heard it all, another shard of reality pierces your skull. Just in from our You Can't Make This Stuff Up Bureau, it's a fancy-pants co-op on Manhattan's Upper West Side which thinks it knows so much about doggie genetics that it can justify not only banning certain breeds but requiring genetic proof that any would-be resident pooch doesn't have an unacceptable level of genetic material from a breed on the banned list.

This is a story so urgent and so complex that you'll note it took two DNAinfo reporters to get it written. In these circumstances it would seem presumptuous to attempt to edit Ms. Penhirin's and Mr. Fanelli's efforts. In fact, I should encourage you to check the story out onsite for the numerous links, which are more interesting than you might think, seeing links on "veterinarian," "mutt," and many others. The links are not, as you might fear, to Wikipedia or dictionary entries on the subjects, but to other DNAinfo articles on them.

Meanwhile, somebody's got to keep the world -- or at least their building -- safe from basset hounds.
'Dog Racism' Decried at Co-op That May Use DNA Tests to Ban Breeds

A shih tzu, a pomeranian and a basset hound are among the dogs banned from 170 West End Ave. The co-op board requires dog-owning residents to get a veterinarian to certify a pet's breed. If the breed is unknown, the board may required a DNA test, according to a copy of the policy.

By Sybile Penhirin and James Fanelli
June 16, 2015

UPPER WEST SIDE — The co-op board of a luxury Upper West Side tower has instituted a doggy-discrimination policy that requires pet-owning residents to prove the breeds of their pooches, ruffled residents say.

The policy is designed to purge the building of any pedigrees the board deems troublesome.

As of last month, dog owners at 170 West End Ave. must have their veterinarian sign off on the canine’s pedigree and, if the pet is a mix, detail the percentage of each breed, according to a copy of the policy the co-op board sent to residents last month.

If the breed is unknown, then the co-op board may ask that the mutt take a DNA test to determine it, the document states.

The board members want to know the pet’s genetic make-up because it has a long list of dogs that “are not permitted to reside in the building based upon documented information regarding their tendency towards aggressiveness,” the policy says.

The list of outlawed pooches includes such pint-sized breeds as a Maltese or a Pomeranian.

“It’s like dog racism essentially,” one barking-mad dog-owning resident said of the new policy. “It’s beyond offensive, it’s intrusive.”

The resident, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of angering the board, called the policy an abuse of power.

Many dog-owning residents have a bone to pick with the board about the policy but declined to comment out of fear that negative publicity might affect the value of their apartment.

However, one resident called the policy “outrageous” and said that a group of dog owners was considering a formal protest.

The board’s president, Robert Sadin, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A representative for the property manager, FirstService Residential, also did not respond to a request for comment.

Residents first learned of the board’s policy a few months ago when they received a letter telling them dogs would be required to be DNA tested, sources said. Several follow-up letters softened the DNA requirement from mandatory to at the board’s discretion.

The latest version of the policy, issued on May 26, says that dog owners must get a letter from a veterinarian confirming the pet’s breed or detailing the percentage of each breed in a mix.

“If the information is unknown, or uncertain, the board at its sole discretion may require a resident to perform DNA testing,” the policy states.

If a dog is made up of 50 percent or more of the outlawed breeds, it will not be allowed to live in the building, the policy states.

The requirement of a veterinarian's certification and the DNA test are new to the co-op’s pet policy, but the board has banned 27 dog breeds from the building since at least 2011.

The outlawed animals range from large dogs like St. Bernards and German shepherds to medium-sized pooches like pit bulls and basset hounds to toy breeds like a shih tzu.

The board also requires that residents register their dog and provide a mugshot of the canine.

The 484-unit, 42-story cooperative is one of eight buildings that comprise Lincoln Towers, a leafy 20-acre property near Lincoln Center.

Each building has its own co-op board and makes its own policies.

The co-op board at 180 West End Ave., another Lincoln Towers building, also enacted an unpopular policy in 2002. It prohibited new buyers from smoking in their apartments, but the ban was later dropped after it received heavy blowback.

Sylvia Shapiro, a lawyer and the author of the book "The New York Co-op Bible," said it’s not uncommon for boards to place restrictions on dogs.

But Shapiro, who is the board president of her Greenwich Village cooperative, said she has never heard of a pet policy like the one at 170 West End Ave.

“Mark my words, there is going to be a lawsuit for dog discrimination,” she said.

Shapiro, whose book provides legal and practical advice on living in a co-op or condo, said she has heard of many absurd pet rules, including one board mulling the idea of having doormen inoculate all the building’s dogs.

Another board had to backtrack on a policy requiring pooches to use the freight elevator when an owner said the rule would traumatize his pet, she said.

“The problem with dogs is not the dogs, it’s the owners,” Shapiro said. “There seems to be a lot of irrational people around.”

A resident at 170 West End Ave. also said that pet policies should be more about the owners than their dogs.

“The whole thing is just ridiculous because, at the end of the day, it’s about dog owners being responsible,” the resident said.
I realize that I may be accused of having no interest, or no greater interest, than in holding these preposterous 170 West End Ave. co-op people up to ridicule. Come to think of it, this is probably the case. What's more, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should note that when I was a child we once had a basset hound. His name was Henry. He had way more than his share of health problems, poor thing, but he was the sweetest, lovingest dog. Thinking about him makes me miss him really badly.

This one's for you, Henry.

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At 4:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basset hounds are cool. Those others tend to be aggressive. A coop board can pick and choose human tenants, why not pets too?

At 4:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Tying this to another of your posts, do you realize that Henry was a GMO? All of our domestic dogs are descended from wolves. Over centuries, we bred them to be docile, to help us hunt, to herd sheep, and eventually to be house pets. We genetically modified, by way of selective breeding, the animals (which are organisms) into something more useful to us. I do not understand, therefore, the shrill calls against GMOs. Can someone explain this to me?

At 7:19 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Let me take a stab at this, John. People who worry about the safety of GMOs in our food supply are concerned because we eat food.

There's also a pretty significant distinction between breeding and genetic modification, meaning that you really don't seem to have any point at all to make. Still, if it helps, the part about how we eat food is a distinction that pretty much anyone ought to be able to grasp.


At 6:02 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for responding, Ken.

I guess I forgot to include the livestock animals, fruits, grains and vegetables that we eat as having been changed over millennia by selective breeding, hybridization, etc., which IS genetic modification, unless I'm missing something.

It only recently came to my attention when a popular (in the USA) restaurant franchise posted signs declaring their refusal to use GMOs as ingredients in the food they serve.

After a bit of independent thought, I concluded that we have been consuming GMOs, by virtue of the aforementioned selective breeding, etc., ever since the advent of prehistoric agriculture.

So, why the sudden uproar over something that has been the basis of civilization for thousands of years?


At 6:03 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

No, John, sorry, but you don't appear to have any idea what you're talking about. It's not that there have never been, and aren't still, questions about the breeding process, but breeding is not what is now referred to, perhaps carelessly, as genetic modification. Here's the start of Wikipedia's entry on genetic engineering, a more accurate designation:

Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology. New DNA may be inserted in the host genome by first isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using molecular cloning methods to generate a DNA sequence, or by synthesizing the DNA, and then inserting this construct into the host organism. Genes may be removed, or "knocked out", using a nuclease. Gene targeting is a different technique that uses homologous recombination to change an endogenous gene, and can be used to delete a gene, remove exons, add a gene, or introduce point mutations.

An organism that is generated through genetic engineering is considered to be a genetically modified organism (GMO). . . .

This is what people who worry about GMOs are talking about, and it's simply not what you're talking about. Which is why this is the end of this non-discussion.


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