6 strange pets you can (probably) keep in NYC apartments

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Whether it's the notorious ferret ban, or the occasional terrifying local tabloid story about a tiger or alligator lurking in an apartment, we hear all the time about pets you aren't allowed to have in New York apartments. (You can check out the full list of prohibited species—including elephants, squirrels, and "non-human primates"—here.) But what about the atypical pets you can have now?

Technically, you can get away with just about anything these days if you get the right certification and a note from the doctor—real estate attorney Dean Roberts tells us he has received notes—he has frequently assisted co-op boards in making sense of pet policies—from "proctologists and a dermatologists" for emotional support pets, and notes, "the bar is very low." (He has even come across a "therapy monkey" and a co-op-approved ocelot over the course of his practice). 

For our purposes, however, we're turning our attention to pets with at least something of a proven track record of being allowed in buildings. And really, haven't you always dreamed of having a swarm of bees to call your own?


While animals like ferrets and squirrels are a no-go, other small, furry, cage-bound critters (think hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, etc.) are welcome to become card-carrying New Yorkers. And this includes adorable, ultra-plush chinchillas. "[Pets like this] are pretty much OK in 'most' buildings as they're mostly 'cage' animals, aren't ever in common areas, don't make noise, and don't have smelly litter boxes," explains Bond New York agent William MacLeod. He adds: "I've never seen a building have specific regulations against pets like that, unless there's a strict 'no pets' policy that even includes fish."


Whether they're the source of a neighborhood feud in Park Slope or being used as quaint, egg-producing amenity bait in high-end listings, chickens are improbably having something of a moment in New York. While roosters, geese, ducks, and turkeys are prohibited from living in the city, chickens are perfectly legal (if not always popular). "One of my co-op clients let a guy keep a flock of chickens on his terrace," says Roberts, explaining that the resident's elderly wife was ailing, and they thought the fresh eggs would give her a boost. For a guide to the logistics and costs (both fiscal and social) of becoming a chicken-owning New Yorker, we've got tips here.


Like their flightless friends mentioned above, along with parakeets, parrots, macaws, and other "non-predatory" birds, pigeons have been known to call NYC apartment buildings home—and not just the awnings and fire escapes. "Pigeons are a weird one," says MacLeod. "They're quiet, mellow, and are pretty much like having a cat that can fly." While pigeon racing has been dwindling for years now, MacLeod notes that through his own volunteer work with the Wild Bird Fund, he's witnessed firsthand the surprisingly widespread popularity of pigeon-as-pet. "You'd be surprised who has them," he says. "It runs the gamut from walkup co-ops on the Upper West Side all the way to multi-million dollar lofts in Tribeca!" 


Beyond the occasional horror story about a house or a neighborhood inundated with tens of thousands of bees, urban beekeeping is actually a perfectly legal (and increasingly popular, albeit laden with a whiff of hipster) habit. As with chickens, this one's probably easier if you've got your own backyard (or private rooftop access); but city law does give the green light to "non-aggressive honey bees" and, per the New York Times, will run you around $800 to establish a hive. It might be a tough sell with your neighbors (and building management), but the promise of fresh honey might work wonders in greasing the wheels.


This is where the territory gets a little tricky: While city code nixes most kinds of snakes, as well as iguanas and turtles, in reality, buildings seem pretty willing to make exceptions, or look the other way entirely. Back in 2008 the Times profiled a family keeping a five-foot iguana in their Greenwich Village apartment, and MacLeod notes that "no one seems to care" about the occasional tarantula or snake in a building, provided they don't get out of the apartment. Further evidence that reptiles are often allowed on a case by case by case basis: On a recent deal in a no-pets new development, Compass agent Eugene Litvak says a client ended up having his contract specifically amended to allow his two pet turtles and iguana.


While you shouldn't assume a building that bills itself as "pet-friendly" will be open to a porky new resident—like most reptiles, city regulations would seem to prohibit their very presence—New York City buildings have been known to give pigs the go-ahead. Consider the case of Milly, a 200-pound pig that belonged to clients of Corcoran agent Julia Boland. After years of sneaking Milly in and out of their no-pigs-allowed uptown building in a covered dog carrier, her owners decided enough was enough, and found a larger apartment in a more lax building downtown, where her presence was above board.

On the flip side, some buildings will bend over backwards to keep out your porcine friend: Warburg agent Gabe Leibowitz recalls one building that dredged up an obscure loophole regarding health regulations to scare off a prospective buyer who came with an emotional support pig in tow. "Whether or not it would have held up in court, we don’t know," says Leibowitz. "My understanding is that it’s pretty rare for a service animal to be rejected like this."


5 (mostly) legit ways to talk your landlord into letting you have a pet

9 things to consider before introducing a dog to your NYC apartment

A request for a service animal in a pet-free building: 3 steps to take

End of an era: why co-ops should allow dogs (sponsored)

"No paws on the floor:" the future of pet rules in apartment buildings

Raising chickens in NYC: what you need to know

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