Most New Yorkers know Bernie Goetz as the infamous 1980's "subway vigilante," or for his headline-generating 2013 arrest for selling weed to an undercover cop. But in recent years, he's also become something of a squirrel advocate (the "foremost squirrel husbandrist in Manhattan," according to an artist who used him as a muse back in 2010). And now he's embroiled in a legal battle to stay in the rent-stabilized apartment he's been sharing with an illegal pet squirrel, the New York Daily News Reports. His legal strategy? Claiming the landlord can't even prove that his pet is actually a squirrel. (Or more specifically, that it belongs to the animal family sciuridae, which includes chipmunks and prairie dogs.)
Goetz's lawyer even refers to his client's three-legged pet Glinda's Sister as an "alleged squirrel," and told the paper, "I’d like to clarify at least which family the alleged animal is a member of." He also says that the squirrel's whereabouts are currently unknown (though a neighbor claims she's heard "screeching in the walls). To be clear: squirrels are most definitely on the list of animals that are illegal to keep as pets in NYC along with their controversial cousin, the ferret.
While the crux of the suit seems to revolve around the alleged filthy conditions in which Goetz lived with the squirrel — which he says have now been resolved — his approach is actually pretty similar to one of the better strategies out there for harboring a pet (albeit a species that's generally accepted in NYC apartments, unlike squirrels) against your landlord's wishes.
Lest we forget, if you keep a pet in an "open and notorious" manner for three months or more, the landlord loses their right to give you the boot just for having it around. In other words, better to make sure the doorman or the super sees Rufus head out for his morning walks, rather than trying to call him an "alleged dog" after the fact.
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