- In case you’re wondering, turkeys, hawks, and eagles are on a no-fly list for NYC apartments
- Exotic, undomesticated animals and beasts that you find on a farm are generally off-limits
- Even pet-friendly buildings (usually cats and dogs) have rules about the weight and type of breed
Plenty of New York City apartments are advertised as “pet-friendly,” but don’t get your gator just yet.
Boards and landlords often regulate what pets are and aren’t allowed in NYC apartments on a case-by-case basis, says Dean Roberts, a real estate and finance attorney at Norris McLaughlin. Many other animals, however, cannot be kept as pets under any circumstances per city law.
“There are some inherent bans on certain pets—like NYC doesn’t allow big cats or other animals that are clearly dangerous,” Roberts says. “Why would you want to live with a crocodile anyway?… But it’s New York, you can expect strange things.”
Pet policies usually hinge on how disruptive a pet is to other residents, Roberts says. While most landlords don’t consider keeping goldfish in a bowl a violation of a “no-pet” policy, an animal that could injure someone is another story, Roberts says.
“It really boils down to pets that would constitute a nuisance, due to their sound, via their threatening behavior, or [if they were] destroying property—that’s really the measurement more than the type of animal,” Roberts says. “You could have a destructive Chihuahua and an extremely pleasant lion and the Chihuahua would be the nuisance, not the lion.”
Lions, however, fall under the list of animals NYC bans from being pets, along with other undomesticated cats and dogs including tigers, cheetahs, cougars, panthers, coyotes, hyenas, jackals, wolves, and foxes. Farm animals, such as goats, sheep, and llamas, are also off limits.
If you’re asking who on earth would keep a tiger as a pet, look no further than New York’s tiger man.
Antoine Yates kept a 425-pound tiger named Ming in his apartment in a Harlem public housing project from 2001 to 2003, when authorities tranquilized and removed the tiger. They also confiscated a five-foot-long alligator named Al that Yates kept in a fiberglass tank, according to the New York Times.
Brooklyn residents might remember one famous illegal pet caught swimming in Prospect Park Lake in February. It wasn’t a bird, or a plane, but Godzilla: a five-foot long alligator.
Alligators, crocodiles, snapping turtles, iguanas, gila monsters, and many other lizards are illegal to keep as pets in NYC—and for good reason. Large reptiles not only pose a threat to residents, but pet owners who fail to care for them can cause irreparable harm to the animals themselves.
Godzilla died two months after it was taken in by the Bronx Zoo, according to a press release. The zoo called Godzilla’s injuries—including extreme anemia, weight loss, and a chronic ulcer thanks to a rubber bathtub stopper it had swallowed—a “tragic case of animal abuse.”
“This alligator suffered and died because its owner decided to dump her in a frigid lake, in an extremely debilitated state rather than provide her with the veterinary care that could have saved her,” read the statement. “Wild animals are not pets.”
If you don’t want to see snakes on a plane, chances are you don’t want to see them in your apartment. You cannot keep vipers, cobras, anacondas, and other venomous snakes as pets in NYC. Venomous bugs—tarantulas, black widows, and wasps included—are also illegal.
Even non-venomous bugs can get you into trouble. Roberts remembers inspecting an apartment after a leak on a higher floor led the property owner to discover a resident’s moth collection. The unit was so full of bugs that the resident eventually had to move out.
“The apartment was like a cave, like a Collyer Mansion sort of thing, but with moths,” Roberts says. “It was a little much.”
The birds and the bees
But large predatory birds—including hawks, owls, vultures, emus, and ostriches—are off limits, alongside farm birds such as roosters, ducks, geese, and turkeys. Even the American mascot, the eagle, is on NYC’s no-fly list.
Some condos and co-ops may have specific restrictions on birds that the city doesn’t regulate. Joshua Holzer, a vice president at property manager Maxwell-Kates, says one of his buildings informs owners that they are not allowed to feed pigeons or other birds on building terraces.
Sea mammals and fish
It might seem like common sense, but if your aquatic friend can’t fit in your bathtub, you probably can’t legally have it as a pet in NYC. Dolphins, whales, seals, and walruses are among the sea mammals New Yorkers can’t keep as pets. Sharks and piranhas are also outlawed—and honestly, who has the extra square footage?
Individual properties will have their own regulations on the types of animals a person cannot have, Holzer says.
Some buildings outlaw dogs over 20 or 40 pounds or certain breeds, such as Rottweilers and Pit bulls, for residents’ safety. In one of his condos, a resident’s dog bit two separate people while off the leash, and the resident had to move out at the end of their lease, Holzer says.
“[Rules] are put into place for the safety of the building residents,” Holzer says. “In most buildings dogs are required to wear a leash and collar, when in the common areas. More than that, it’s the cleanliness, the overall maintenance of the property.”
For example, if a resident wants to install a fish tank, usually the superintendent will have to sign off on the tank to make sure it doesn’t cause a leak in another apartment. Most buildings will also prevent pets from roaming the hallways and common areas, or outlaw exotic animals like snakes, lizards, and other large reptiles, Holzer adds.