Avoiding eviction after minor dog incident?
July 11, 2008 5:33 PM   Subscribe

ApartmentFilter: My friend's dog got our of her NYC apartment today, and a neighbor overreacted. Now the neighbor is trying to get her evicted from the building (her lease goes all the way til February). Should she be worried? Can she fight back?

My friend has two formerly abused dogs that she adopted to save them from being put down. Today one of them managed to work all three of her locks and get out into the hall. A neighbor's kid was out in the hall, and the dog bounded up to the kid happily, playfully, excitedly, as dogs are wont to do. The neighbor kid freaked, and the neighbor came out. By the time my friend got out there, her dog had peed the neighbor's floor, which my friend knows that he only does after being hit. The argument got heated, and the neighbor called the police. When the cops arrived they were very nice and did not press any charges, telling my friend to just be more careful. Nonetheless, the angry neighbor is pressuring the building manager to cancel my friend's 12 month lease and kick her out.

My friend's building allows dogs, and her dogs would never hurt a fly. Still, her neighbor is claiming the dog attacked the kid, and between the dog getting loose and peeing the floor, she is worried that management might find cause for canceling her lease.

Any advice for her?
posted by Hollow to Human Relations (16 answers total)
her neighbor is claiming the dog attacked the kid,

How do you know the neighbor is lying?
posted by matteo at 5:41 PM on July 11, 2008

Relax until she finds out what the landlord/building manager does. The neighbor might be a well known wing-nut.

Offer to pay for professional cleaning of the neighbor's floor.

Spend some more time with the dogs defining their boundaries.
posted by Ookseer at 5:44 PM on July 11, 2008

Buy better locks immediately.
posted by paulsc at 5:50 PM on July 11, 2008

Dittoing paulsc! The dog got through THREE locks?

I would not worry too terribly much just yet -- her building allows dogs and she wasn't hiding them or breaking any rules. From the perspective of management it would most likely be far more hassle to kick her out than is worth it to them.

Having said that, though, I think a little more understanding (understanding, not admittance of wrong-doing) on her part towards the neighbor might be in order. A strange dog -- even a well-meaning dog -- bounding up to a small child can be terrifying to a child, and between that and the dog peeing on their floor -- well, I am a dog lover with two dogs of my own, and I even can see how scared kid + dog pee on the floor would be cause for a reprimand to the owner.
posted by kate blank at 6:06 PM on July 11, 2008

Since dogs are allowed, if she's proactive and enrolls the dog into active obedience training, showing she's making an effort to teach the dog proper manners but the animal is just in an adjustment period, those efforts will probably win points with the landlord. I know that the training I've had my dog go through has really protected her and I from these kinds of drama. It's made a big difference so that my dog is allowed in places and better tolerated by people who don't like dogs. Because if someone simply doesn't like dogs, they're often responding to an animal's presence from emotion/fear and nothing will fix that except seeing an animal that's easily controllable by the owner.

If she goes out of her way to teach her dog manners, people can't complain. Leastwise, the other people who see that she's making a concerted effort to train her dog well won't listen.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:24 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Was the kid bitten? If the dog was going to bite the kid, it probably would have. Is the kid generally afraid of dogs?
posted by cnc at 6:44 PM on July 11, 2008

How do you know the dog didn't attack the kid? I grew up in a small town with lots of summer renters. They always let their dogs run free around town because the stupid fucking beasts "would never hurt a fly". I, and other locals, have been attacked more times than I can count. I always had to carry sticks with me when walking around at night in the summer.

Dogs, especially "rescue" dogs are not reliable or trustworthy outside of their immediate family. Your "friend" should count herself lucky these people did not rightly choose to press charges.
posted by Riemann at 6:56 PM on July 11, 2008

If your friend gets legal papers, she should consult a lawyer immediately. Pet holdovers, as they're called, can be very tricky things in NYC, and should be handled properly by a professional from the very beginning.

In terms of what to do now, I would start with a genuine, heartfelt apology to the neighbor. People underestimate the power of a simple "Sorry, I understand that this incident must have been very distressing to you." I would also, as someone else mentioned upthread, offer to pay for any cleaning that has been necessitated.

As a more long-term strategy, I would make sure that my dogs met my other neighbors in a very controlled atmosphere, if I felt safe with their people skills. If they are not properly socialized to be around children and other dogs, I would immediately enroll them in training to correct this. Apartment dwelling in NYC requires your dog to be properly socialized because you live in such close quarters with other people and animals. I believe you when you say that the dog was simply bounding happily, but unfortunately this is not acceptable behavior for some parents, and your friend should really be able to exert more control over the situation. If she wants to live in a NYC apartment building, it's imperative that her dogs come immediately when she tells them to.

As a side note, Riemann, your comment that rescue dogs are not reliable or trustworthy outside of their immediate family is at best a gross generalization, and at worst just plain inaccurate. I also don't see how your answer is helpful to the poster of this question -- I read it simply as you expressing your dislike for what you call "these stupid fucking beasts," which is an opinion that you're certainly entitled to, but doesn't serve a purpose in this context.
posted by lassie at 7:57 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

No dog owner can be sure of their animals behavior when unsupervised. They all think the best of their creatures and immediately assume fault in others when they do wrong outside their immediate supervision. Rescue dogs are simple more suspect than most due to their history of abuse.
posted by Riemann at 8:07 PM on July 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

BTW: I have been a dog owner myself. Austrialian Blue Heeler which died of old age (was 20 years old) not too long ago. So I sympathize with your plight here but you are completely fucking delusional if you honestly think it's certain this dog did not attack or act in a threatening manner. Dogs cannot ever be 100% trusted around strangers.
posted by Riemann at 8:11 PM on July 11, 2008

if she's proactive and enrolls the dog into active obedience training, showing she's making an effort to teach the dog proper manners...

Be careful about that. Enrolling the dog in obedience training after the incident could be construed as an admission by the owner that the dog does have obedience problems.
posted by sexymofo at 8:35 PM on July 11, 2008

I have rescue dogs, and I have kids. I teach my kids to be very respectful of dogs, and only approach them after asking permission. I keep my dogs on a leash. I've seen a newly adopted pit bull jump out of a second story window and maul a neighbor's leashed dog, and the owner, then become a relaxed and affectionate beast to all who ran to help; I've seen my own dog roll over and play dead while a horde of neighborhood kids descended on him, even when they smacked him in the crotch, and not respond when another kid smacked him in the face with a metal toy truck. I've also seen that same dog bite my wife, our nanny, and myself. I've also see a friend's dog bite her own child apropos of nothing, and another friend's dog bite the hand of a third friend out of nowhere, which turned out to be related to an unsuspected medical condition. Oh, and I've seen beautiful German Shepherds escape a locked yard and roam the street at night, only to be hit by a car and one of them be paralyzed from it.

So: for the sake of this situation, be advised:

1. Even if the neighbor overreacted, he probably has good reason to, and when it's your own kids there's no margin of error to play around with -- nevermind that the kid is now going to have a huge fear of dogs that is going to take a long time to get rid of;

2. If the dog got through a door with three locks, either that's an incredibly powerful dog or your friend is lying;

3. All dogs -- not just rescues -- can be unpredictable, especially as they age and medical problems begin to interfere with their behavior.

So I advise you cut the neighbor some slack, suggest the friend take the lumps associated with owning a rescue that got loose and ran after a kid (regardless of the motivation), and even if that means getting kicked out, so be it -- responsible pet owners recognize that this type of thing is a risk they take, even if they take appropriate precautions.

Oh, and you wrote this:

the dog bounded up to the kid happily, playfully, excitedly, as dogs are wont to do. The neighbor kid freaked, and the neighbor came out. By the time my friend got out there

If the dog bounded up to the kid when neither your friend nor the neighbor were in the hall with the kid, how do you know the dog was being happy, playful or excited?
posted by davejay at 10:43 PM on July 11, 2008 [3 favorites]

As a side note, Riemann, your comment that rescue dogs are not reliable or trustworthy outside of their immediate family is at best a gross generalization, and at worst just plain inaccurate.

As a side note, Lassie, my cat of 21 years was killed by a rescue dog that "wouldn't hurt a fly". The asshole owner was letting it run around off its leash and it jumped our hedge, into our yard, onto our deck where my cat was napping and bit her in the neck so hard she died instantly when her neck broke.

Generally I like dogs, but I can also definitely see the neighbor's kid being terrified of the dog regardless of its intentions.
posted by barc0001 at 1:37 AM on July 12, 2008

I'm a dog owner, dog lover, and landlord who allows dogs. If a dog bounds up to a young child, then pees on their floor, they have a very serious right to be very upset. Dogs often pee when anxious, so I wouldn't assume the dog was hit. To get into a heated argument resulting in a police visit instead of apologizing was unwise.

Your friend needs to improve her door, get both dogs into obedience training, and learn that even the sweetest dog can bite someone, esp. a child. I think a very sincere apology is in order.
posted by theora55 at 5:11 AM on July 12, 2008 [3 favorites]

Definitely get better locks. The easiest way to dogproof a door is to get a lock that has no turning handle and requires a key from both sides.

There's another possibility no-one seems to have considered, ie the reason the dog peed on the floor may be the same reason he escaped the apartment: to pee. He may have been trained by your friend or his previous owner to pee outside. I don't know what arrangements your friend has made for the dog to pee while inside the apartment, but much like ourselves, occasionally dogs really need to go.

A sincere apology is in order (to the kid, in the presence of the kid's dad), but don't go overboard with that. Don't grovel to these people. It's clear the dog didn't hurt the kid (otherwise, let's face it, they'd be showing off the wounds and brandishing photos), and whether the kid is fearful of the dog probably had little to do with the dog's actual actions and a lot more to do with his dad's freakout. A sincere apology and a talk, and an introduction to the dog, ideally should sort that out. Maybe your friend could quietly suggest to the landlord that he send a written warning to her to keep unsupervised dogs out of the corridor; that ought to satisfy the neighbor that the landlord has done something about it and head off the potential trouble without going through the hassle and heartache of moving house.

But not everyone is open to reason, or open to being fair, accepting apologies, or listening to explanations. Give them every opportunity to be reasonable, but if they continue to be quarrelsome, stand on their "right" to live a life without dogs in it, seem unwilling to acknowledge any possibility of any fault on their part (ie, scaring the dog, yelling at the dog, hitting the dog), and/or give a clear indication that they're the kind of people who basically hate dogs, then she should prepare for trouble. Unfortunately, some people are just plain like that. It may end up with somebody, them or your friend, having to move out. Your friend needs to consider the possibility, weigh up her options, count her allies (and the other party's potential foes) and make her decision about that sooner rather than later. If there are a large number of dog owners in the building, asking the landlord to call a general meeting (or put it on the body corporate agenda) to discuss mutual expectations and come to a general understanding between dog owners and non-dog owners in the building would be a good first step, and probably clearly indicate to both sides how a larger kerfuffle over it will play out; making a battle, to intelligent and reasonable people, unnecessary. Don't fight battles you won't win; don't give up where it's clear you won't lose. The landlord might love her dogs and think the world of her and have been looking for an excuse to get rid of these quarrelsome whiners since day two of their occupancy; on the other hand, maybe everyone in the building hates your friend and her noisy, uncontrollable dogs and wants her gone ASAP. There's no way to know without asking.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:53 AM on July 12, 2008

1) Get better locks immediately.

2) Apologize to neighbor.

3) Stay calm.

4) Be proactive in inform management that 1 & 2 have been done and that the dog will not be in that hallway again unleashed ever. Express the desire to resolve the situation reasonable. Be contrite and polite and very very sane and regret that this terrible situation occurred.

Dunno if this is off base, but, pursuing the idea that the dog only peed because it was hit and people who hit dogs are bad is a FAIL FAIL FAIL idea to even be thinking about when discussing this with anyone. People are frightened of "normal, friendly" dog behavior all the time, and are wise to be protective of their young children around strange dogs.
posted by desuetude at 6:58 PM on July 12, 2008

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