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Dear Habitat

While it may not be “good form” or advisable for a board to discuss a shareholder’s request for an emotional service animal in a public forum such as an annual meeting, there would not be anything illegal about stating that such a request was made and that the shareholder was permitted to keep an emotional service animal (as required by law). This might be particularly necessary if the building has an otherwise stringent “no-pet” policy and inquiries are made at the annual meeting as to why the board granted an exception to the rule. That said, a board treads into uncharted and potentially dangerous waters if it discloses the nature of the shareholder’s disability. Such disclosure might rise to the level of running afoul of privacy laws. Moreover, it would be completely inappropriate and a violation of applicable law if the nature of the shareholder’s disability was disclosed in retaliation against the shareholder for making the request.

Robert J. Braverman, Partner, Braverman Greenspun

 a board meeting is held as an open meeting of shareholders, I would recommend against discussing a shareholder’s request to have an emotional service animal in their apartment. Discussions of this nature should be kept private and confidential and discussed only among board members who are acting as fiduciaries of the corporation. A shareholder should not have to disclose their personal disability.

Ellen Kornfeld, Vice President, The Lovett Company

As a general rule, individual shareholder issues should be avoided at open meetings, especially when the issue is medical and relates to an alleged disability. The board would be far better protected by having this discussion in executive session. While it is fine to discuss a specific policy, pets, or accommodations, individual cases should be dealt with in private, both to protect the co-op as well as the individual shareholder’s privacy.

Dean M. Roberts, Member, Norris McLaughlin & Marcus

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