Governed by a unique right to shelter mandate, New York City provides temporary emergency shelter to every man, woman, and child who is eligible for services, every night. This policy sets New York apart from municipalities across the nation−many of which turn homeless individuals and families away once shelters have filled up or simply put their names on a waiting list.
New York City’s shelter system is consistently recognized as the most sophisticated and comprehensive in the nation. The City is also an innovative leader in the field of preventive services for those who are at risk of becoming homeless. All New Yorkers should be proud to live in a city that focuses intently on prevention efforts at the forefront of its policies, while providing shelter as a safety net for those in need.
While DSS-DHS does not allow pets of any type to reside in shelter with clients, DSS-DHS does seek to accommodate requests for Emotional Service Animals (ESAs), on an individual basis based on a client’s unique needs. Service animals and approved emotional support animals are not considered pets. Emotional support animals must have an approved Reasonable Accommodation Request (RAR) to reside in shelter with their owners.
Before entering shelter, approved service dogs or emotional support animals must have all their licenses and vaccinations up to date, as required by state and local law.
Service dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability, such as guiding a person who is blind or alerting someone with epilepsy of a forthcoming seizure.
Clients with a service dog must be able to explain what specific tasks the dog has been trained to perform, unless the client’s need for a service dog is readily apparent or already known to DSS-DHS staff. Clients are not required to explain the nature of their disability to DSS-DHS staff, or demonstrate any tasks the animal has been trained to perform.
An emotional support animal is an animal whose presence provides its owner with comfort or other emotional assistance that alleviates the symptoms or functional limitations of a disability. Any animal that is legal to own in New York City can qualify as an emotional support animal, and it does not need to be trained to complete specific tasks.
To enter shelter with an ESA, clients must submit a Reasonable Accommodation Request (RAR) that will be evaluated by DSS-DHS staff. DSS-DHS will not approve a RAR for an emotional support animal without supporting documentation unless the client’s need for the ESA is obvious, apparent, or already known to DSS-DHS.
The RAR should include written documentation from an appropriate professional (such as a doctor, social worker, rehabilitation counselor, or other reliable and relevant sources) and include disability-related information supporting the need for an emotional support animal.
Clients may submit relevant documentation from an appropriate professional. If a client needs help gathering supporting documentation, DSS-DHS staff at an intake center or at the client’s assigned shelter location are available to help. For Reasonable Accommodation requests for more than one animal, the documentation must explain the need for multiple animals.
An emotional support animal may not reside in a DSS-DHS shelter location while the RAR is under review.
If you are asked to find temporary shelter for your animal, or if your reasonable accommodation request for an emotional support animal is denied, look into the following options:
The following is a list of limited intake animal shelters that offer surrender prevention programs. Surrender prevention programs are homeless prevention programs for domestic animals and may be able to offer suggestions and/or direct assistance on how to shelter your animal. A limited intake animal shelter may accept an animal after completing an assessment.
Animal Care Centers (ACC) are the City’s municipal animal shelters. If an animal is not returned to an owner or adopted, animals may be humanely euthanized or placed with partner organizations - at any time. Appointments are recommended. NYC Animal Care Center (ACC): 212-788-4000
Visit our Applicants and Clients with Disabilities page for more information on DSS-DHS services for people with disabilities.