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Should I Give Eddie Another Chance?

Q.  I was running out of my Tribeca co-op last Saturday on my way to yoga when I was stopped right outside the entrance by a mini commotion.  There was my neighbor, Mrs. X, with her mutt, Eddie, who had just taken a bite out of a little boy.  The kid was balling his eyes out, his mother was trying to comfort him, Eddie was barking wildly, I don’t know at who or what or whether it was a reaction to what had just happened.  Mrs. X was pulling him away from his victim, scolding, “Bad dog.” 

Only the thing is, as far as I could tell, Eddie has always been a model dog, not one of those self-important purebreds that pees in the tree pits or poops in the mailroom.  And as far as I can see all the kids love him.  So I couldn’t tell if this was just some isolated incident brought on by I don’t know what or who – or his darker dangerous side coming through.  I don’t want to get Eddie in trouble, but there are lots of kids in the building and I don’t want them to get bitten.  What should I do?  Should I tell the board or call 311 or just keep my mouth shut? Troubled in Tribeca


A.  Your concern for the respective rights of man and animal is admirable.  It comes down to a question of whose interest takes precedence under these circumstances.  I broached you dilemma to Stephen Lasser, an attorney who represents lots of co-ops and condos in New York and New Jersey.  He said, “if a shareholder has a legitimate safety concern regarding another shareholder’s pet, he should not hesitate to notify the board.”  That’s certainly a prudent course of action.

But Maddy Tarnofsky, a lawyer known for counseling residents with pet problems, had a somewhat different take. “My instinct is to stay away from boards,” she said.  “They tend to create more problems than solutions in this situation.”

“From what you’ve told me, Ms. Troubled is not aware of any prior misconduct by Eddie, and didn’t see who precipitated the bite.  If I were her, I’d approach the owner, whom she knows, and try to resolve the matter.

“In addition, the parent of the little boy who got bitten is there. I think it’s reasonable to assume that as the person with the most direct involvement in all this, she’d deal with the situation.

“I don’t think Ms. Troubled has any obligation to contact the board because the dog has no prior history of bad behavior that could rise to the level of nuisance so the board wouldn’t be able to get rid of him.”

As Ms Tarnofsky explained, “I like to use common sense and attempt to work out a resolution, rather than escalate disputes.”

There you have it: one problem, two ways to go. Given my own anti-authoritarian inclination, I’d probably steer clear of the board in this particular situation, but the choice is yours.

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