Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Emotional support trumps rule

"No dogs," a widespread rule in New York City co-ops, can sometimes be legally ignored. In 25-50 known cases, pets who would be illegal for most residents are permissible because their people appealed the rule and won.

The reason for the appeal: the pet in question is a special kind of service animal; he or she is an "emotional support animal." Amendments to the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 allow disabled people to keep service animals in their homes, no matter what the building's rules may be.

The case of Manhattan's Donald W. Reilly, described in a recent NYTimes story, illustrates this. Reilly is a Marine vet who takes 10 different meds a day for narcolepsy, diabetes and high blood pressure. He volunteered to help during Hurricane Katrina and while doing so, came across four beagle puppies. He gave three away and kept one, nicknamed "P.T."

When others in the co-op (where he has lived since 1968, long before it became a co-op) learned about the dog, Reilly was told he had to move out or face eviction. He found a lawyer who specializes in pet eviction cases and appealed to the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity of the Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Earlier this year, he won his case . . . and the right to keep P.T. (as well as another dog, when necessary, to follow the beagle).

A spokesperson for the fair housing office says caring for animals forces tenants out of their pajamas and out of the building. That's true with Reilly and P.T. Twice a day they walk to Central Park and socialize.

It sounds as if they're emotional support for each other. But when you think about it, isn't that always the case in the best human-companion animal relationships?

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