No pets left behind

Photo courtesy of the New York State Senate
Sen. Jim Tedisco and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal championed a new law that changes how pets are treated during evictions. Officers will now have to scan the property for animals and speak with the evictee and their landlord about safe and humane removal of pets.

A notice of eviction is posted on the front door of a Brooklyn apartment. The handle is pad-locked. Kevin Tamayo’s couches, lamps, and refrigerator lie within, unable to be claimed until further notice. Behind the barred window stands his restless pooch, Tori, anxiously waiting her owner’s return. This Pitbull’s fate, as well as every  evictees’ furry companions around New York state would be in limbo, until now.

Upon hearing that story, two state lawmakers known for their pet friendly legislation drafted a bill to ensure that stories like Kevin’s would not happen again in New York.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “No Pet Left Behind” law on Thursday, Aug. 23. The legislation, which took effect immediately, protects all household pets from abandonment after an eviction has gone into motion. Officers will now have to scan the property for animals and speak with the evictee and their landlord about safe and humane removal of pets.

Senator Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, Chair of the Senate Social Services Committee and Senate Chair of New York City Animal Advocacy Day, said, “No pet should ever be left behind and abandoned like an old couch. Those executing eviction notices and those leaving their home have a responsibility to make sure to check the property so an animal is not left behind to die.”

Tedisco and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, voiced their concerns with advocates and animal lovers alike at the annual Animal Advocacy Day on June 5.

Rosenthal, a sponsor of the bill, said, “Animals are sentient beings, members of the family who rely on human care for survival. Plans must be made for their care in the event of an eviction, and this law will ensure that they are.”  

Rosenthal’s increased outrage over evicted pets stems from the plight of Tamayo and Tori. Tamayo and his family were evicted by their landlord leaving their best friend unattended and locked in a cage for two days.

After a resident has failed to pay or vacate the premises, the landlord of the property has the authority to change the locks on the evictee. After this step is complete, an officer creates and logs a detailed inventory of the objects in the house. Under the new legislation (S.7388-b/A.8684B-b), pets will no longer be accounted for as a household object, but as a being with rights.

According to a NYC Office of Civil Justice 2017 Annual Report there were a total of 21,074 residential evictions conducted by New York City marshals. The 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey found that 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet.  84.6 million residences house furry friends. A significant portion of the evictees in New York State have pets, and will no longer have to suffer the unjust separation.

“I know firsthand how pets quickly become members of your family and it is absurd that in these instances a living animal can be treated the same as a possession and be put in harm’s way. I’m proud to sign this measure that will protect beloved family pets and solve this issue once and for all,” Cuomo said.