Disability and Pets: Related Cases
|Access Now, Inc. v. Town of Jasper, Tennessee||268 F.Supp.2d 973, 26 NDLR P 107 (E.D.Tenn.,2003)||Plaintiffs Access Now, Inc. and Pamela Kitchens, acting as parent and legal guardian on behalf of her minor daughter Tiffany brought this action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against defendant Town of Jasper, Tennessee under the ADA after the town denied her request to keep a keep miniature horse as service animal at her residence. The town's ordinance at issue provided that no person shall keep an enumerated animal within 1000 feet of any residence without a permit from the health officer. The Jasper Municipal Court held a hearing and determined that the keeping of the horse was in violation of the code and ordered it removed from the property. On appeal, this Court found that while the plaintiffs contended that the horse helped Tiffany in standing, walking, and maintaining her balance, Tiffany does not have a disability as defined by the ADA and does not have a genuine need to use the horse as a service animal. Further, the Court found that the horse was not a service animal within the meaning of 28 C.F.R. § 36.104 because the animal was not used in the capacity of a service animal and instead was a companion or pet to Tiffany. The plaintiffs' complaint was dismissed with prejudice.|
|Anderson v. City of Blue Ash||--- F.3d ----2015 WL 4774591 (6th Cir., 2015)||This case stems from a dispute between Plaintiff/Appellant and the city of Blue Ash (City) on whether Plaintiff/Appellant could keep a miniature horse at her house as a service animal for her disabled minor daughter. Plaintiff/Appellant’s daughter suffers from a number of disabilities that affect her ability to walk and balance independently, and the horse enabled her to play and get exercise in her backyard without assistance from an adult. In 2013, the City passed a municipal ordinance banning horses from residential property and then criminally prosecuted plaintiff/appellant for violating it. Plaintiff/Appellant’s defense was that the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Fair Housing Amendments Act (“FHAA”), both entitled her to keep the horse at her house as a service animal for her daughter. Rejecting those arguments, the Hamilton County Municipal Court found Plaintiff/Appellant guilty. Plaintiff/Appellant filed suit in federal court arguing that the ADA and FHAA entitled her to keep her horse as a service animal. The district court granted summary judgment to the City, finding that Plaintiff/Appellant's claims were barred by claim and issue preclusion stemming from her Municipal Court conviction. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit found that, because the fact-finding procedures available in a criminal proceeding in municipal court differed substantially from those available in a civil proceeding, Plaintiff/Appellant's conviction had no preclusive effect on this lawsuit. Furthermore, while there was no evidence that the City's actions were motivated by discriminatory intent against the minor daughter or had a disparate impact on disabled individuals, there were significant factual disputes regarding whether the ADA or FHAA required the City to permit Plaintiff/Appellant to keep her miniature horse at her house. The district court's grant of summary judgment to the City on those claims was therefore reversed.|
|Ascencio v. ADRU Corporation||2014 WL 204212 (N.D. Cal. 2014) (Not Reported in F.Supp.2d)||
A woman, who suffers from a disability that is accompanied by deep depression and anxiety, went to a fast food restaurant with her mother and her two service dogs. Upon entering the establishment, the employees refused to serve them, forced them to leave, and retaliated against them by calling the police and threatening them with arrest. The woman and her mother sued the fast food restaurant for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related California statutes. When the fast food restaurant failed to file an answer, the court entered a default judgment against the fast food restaurant; awarded the plaintiffs with damages, court costs and attorney fees; and placed a permanent injunction against the fast food restaurant.
|Auburn Woods I Homeowners Ass'n v. Fair Employment and Housing Com'n||2004 WL 1888284 (Cal.App. 3 Dist.)||
In this California case, the Elebiaris sought permission from their condominium association to keep a small dog as a companion (both suffered from severe depression and found that taking care of a dog alleviated their symptoms and enabled them to function more productively). T he association refused their request, leading the Elebiaris to file a claim with the Fair Employment and Housing Commission (the FEHC), which found in favor of the Elebiaris. After the Superior Court granted the condominium's petition, the FEHC and residents appealed. The appellate court held that the trial court erred in overturning the FEHC decision where the FEHC's finding that a companion dog constituted a reasonable accommodation for plaintiff's disability was supported by substantial evidence.
|Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Assn.||765 F.3d 1277 (11th Cir., 2014)||Appellee Ajit Bhogaita, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), filed suit against Appellant Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc. ("Association") for violating the disability provisions of the Federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(b) (“FHA”) and the Florida Fair Housing Act, when it enforced its pet weight policy and demanded Bhogaita remove his emotional support dog from his condominium. The jury awarded Bhogaita $5,000 in damages, and the district court awarded Bhogaita more than $100,000 in attorneys' fees. This court affirmed that decision finding that there was evidence that the Association constructively denied appellee's requested accommodation. In fact, the court opined, "Neither Bhogaita's silence in the face of requests for information the Association already had nor his failure to provide information irrelevant to the Association's determination can support an inference that the Association's delay reflected an attempt at meaningful review."|
|Bronk v. Ineichen||54 F.3d 425 (7th Cir. 1995)||
Plaintiffs appealed decision of district court denying their claim that defendants violated the Federal Fair Housing Act for failing to allow a hearing dog in their rental unit as a reasonable accommodation for their hearing disability. The landlord denied the request, alleging that the dog was not a "hearing dog," and that the tenants did not have a legitimate need for the dog because the dog lacked professional training. The Court of Appeals held that if the dog was not necessary as a hearing dog then the plaintiffs were not entitled to the dog as a reasonable accommodation under the FHA. Also, the court held that a disabled person must meet two standards in arguing that an accommodation be made: (1) the accommodation must facilitate the disabled person's ability to function; and (2) the accommodation must survive a cost-benefit balancing that takes both parties' needs into account. The court vacated the decision of the lower court and ordered a new trial because of misleading jury instructions.
|Castillo Condominium Ass'n v. U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development||--- F.3d ----, 2016 WL 1732499 (1st Cir. May 2, 2016)||In 2010, the Castillo Condominium Association learned that Carlo Giménez Bianco (Giménez), a condominium resident, was keeping a dog on the premises and warned him that he would be fined unless he removed the dog. Giménez, who suffered from anxiety and depression, advised the board of directors that he planned to keep his emotional support dog and that he was entitled to do so under federal law. As a result of the conflict, Giménez was forced to vacate and sell his unit and he filed a complaint of disability discrimination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD filed a charge of discrimination against the Association under the Fair Housing Act. An administrative law judge (ALJ) concluded that the Association had not violated the Act because Giménez failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered from a mental impairment. The ALJ’s decision was appealed to the Secretary, who found that Gimenez suffered from a cognizable disability. The Court of Appeals, First Circuit, held that substantial evidence supported the Secretary's finding that the Association's refusal to allow Gimenez to keep an emotional support dog in his condominium unit as a reasonable accommodation for his disability violated the Fair Housing Act. The Association’s petition for review was denied and the Secretary’s cross petition was granted.|
|Chavez v. Aber||--- F.Supp.3d ----2015 WL 4724807 (W.D. Tex., 2015)||Plaintiffs sought damages stemming from Defendants' refusal to accommodate Plaintiffs’ minor son's mental health disabilities by allowing Plaintiffs to keep a mixed-breed pit bull as an emotional support animal in their rented duplex. Plaintiffs asserted (1) housing discrimination under the Federal Housing Act (“FHA”), (2) unlawful retaliation under the FHA, (3) discrimination under the Texas Fair Housing Act (“TFHA”), and (4) unlawful retaliation under § 92.331 of the Texas Property Code. Defendants filed the Motion, seeking dismissal of the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The court found Plaintiffs had adequately pleaded all claims and denied the Defendant’s motion to dismiss.|
|Connecticut v. Devon D.||--- A.3d ---- 2016 WL 3194779 (Conn.,2016)||Devon D. was convicted of four counts sexual assault and three counts of risk of injury to a child upon allegations made by three of Devon D.’s biological children, C1, C2, and C3. He appealed his conviction on the grounds that the trial court had abused its discretion by having the three cases to be tried jointly and by permitting C1 to testify with a dog at her feet. The appellate court had accepted these arguments and reversed and remanded for a new trial, but the Supreme Court of Connecticut reversed the appellate court. The Connecticut Supreme Court concluded that “the trial court properly exercised its discretion in permitting the cases to be tried together because the evidence in all three cases was cross admissible,” and reversed on that issue. As to the appellate court’s determination that the trial court had abused its discretion in permitting a dog to sit near C1 during her testimony to provide comfort and support,” the Supreme Court also reversed, reinstating the verdict and judgment of the trial court.|
|Cordoves v. Miami-Dade Cnty||--- F.Supp.3d ----2015 WL 1131684 (S.D. Fla. 2015)||This case arises out of an incident at the Dadeland Mall, during which plaintiff had a confrontation with security personnel that ended with her arrest. The incident was precipitated by the presence of a small dog plaintiff was toting in a stroller while shopping with her mother and daughter. Plaintiff alleged discrimination in public accommodations under the ADA, and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment under § 1983. Defendants moved for summary judgment.The District Court denied the motion in part and granted the motion in part, finding that an issue of material fact existed as to whether the dog was a service animal; that the patron was precluded from bringing negligence claim premised on intentional torts; that officer's use of force in arresting patron was de minimis; and that the right to be free from officer's application of force was not clearly established.|
|Crossroads Apartments Associates v. LeBoo||152 Misc.2d 830 (N.Y. 1991)||
Landlord brought an eviction proceeding against tenant with a history of mental illness for possession of a cat in his rental unit in violation of a no pets policy. Tenant alleged that he needed the cat to alleviate his "intense feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression, which are daily manifestations of his mental illness." The court held that in order to prove that the pet is necessary for the tenant to use and enjoy the dwelling, he must prove "that he has an emotional and psychological dependence on the cat which requires him to keep the cat in the apartment." The court denied the housing authority's motion for summary judgment, stating that there was a triable issue of fact as to whether the cat was necessary for the tenant to use and enjoy the dwelling.
|Crowder v. Kitagawa||81 F.3d 1480 (C.A.9 Hawaii,1996)||
The plaintiffs in this case were a class of visually-impaired persons who use guide dogs. Plaintiffs sought exemption from Hawaii's imposition of a 120-day quarantine on carnivorous animals entering the state (which necessarily included their guide dogs). Specifically, they contend Hawaii's quarantine, designed to prevent the importation of rabies, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),and their constitutional rights of travel, equal protection and substantive due process. On appeal of summary judgment, this Court held that without reasonable modifications to its quarantine requirement for the benefit of visually-impaired individuals who rely on guide dogs, Hawaii's quarantine requirement effectively prevents such persons from enjoying the benefits of state services and activities in violation of the ADA. The district court's issuance of summary judgment in favor of Hawaii, was reversed and the case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.
|De Leon v. Vornado Montehiedra Acquisition L.P.||De Leon v. Vornado Montehiedra Acquisition L.P., F.Supp.3d (D.P.R. 2016)||The defendant in this case sought to dismiss plaintiff’s case, stating that the plaintiff claim did not have proper constitutional standing under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court denied defendant’s request and held that plaintiff did present sufficient evidence to establish standing under the ADA. In order to establish standing, the plaintiff needed to prove three elements: (1) actual or threatened injury, (2) causal connection between the injury and the challenged conduct, and (3) that a favorable court decision can redress the injury. The court determined that plaintiff did satisfy all three elements by showing that plaintiff’s disabled daughter was not allowed in defendant’s shopping mall with her service dog after the mall security guard was not properly informed of protocol regarding service dogs. Ultimately, the security guard mistakenly believed that the service dog needed documentation in order to enter the mall; however, the dog was properly identified as a certified service dog and should have been allowed into the mall. Defendant's motion to dismiss was denied.|
|Dilorenzo v. Costco Wholesale Corp.||515 F.Supp.2d 1187 (W.D.Wash.)||
Plaintiff is a disabled individual who suffers from a variety of ailments arising after her service in the armed forces. Plaintiff's claims arise from interactions with Costco store employees on two separate shopping trips with her service dog. Store employees inquired as to what task the dog performed and objected to the dog being carried in plaintiff's arms around the store. Plaintiff brings her claims under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court found that Defendant's employees did not exceed the boundaries of a permissible inquiry under the ADA with regard to her service dog, where they never asked Plaintiff to state her disability or demanded proof of special training.
|Fair Housing of the Dakotas, Inc. v. Goldmark Property Management, Inc.||78 F.Supp.2d 1028 (D.N.D. 2011)||Plaintiffs bring this action against Goldmark Property Management alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The alleged discriminatory policy is a mandatory application fee, non-refundable deposit, and monthly charge that Goldmark imposes on tenants with disabilities who reside with a non-specially trained assistance animal (i.e. a companion pet). These same fees are waived for tenants with disabilities who reside with a trained assistance animal (i.e. a seeing eye dog). The FHA encompasses all types of assistance animals regardless of training; therefore, Goldmark's policy implicates the FHA. Further, Plaintiffs have met their burden of establishing a prima face case of discrimination and have presented sufficient evidence to create genuine issues for trial on the questions of the necessity and reasonableness of the requested accommodation and whether Goldmark's alleged objective for the policy is permissible under the FHA and not pretextual. Therefore, Goldmark's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part. It is granted as to Plaintiffs' claim of disparate treatment because no proof was offered of a discriminatory intent. It is denied as to Plaintiffs' claims of disparate impact and failure to make a reasonable accommodation.|
|Green v. Housing Authority of Clackamas County||994 F.Supp. 1253 (D. Oregon, 1998)||
Plaintiffs were tenants of a county housing authority and alleged that the housing authority violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, by failing to reasonably accommodate their request for a waiver of a "no pets" policy to allow for a hearing assistance animal in the rental unit to reasonably accommodate a hearing disability. The housing authority argued that the dog was not a reasonable accommodation for the tenant's specific disability because the dog was not certified as a hearing assistance animal. The court granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, holding that the housing authority violated the federal statutes when it required proof from the tenants that the dog had received hearing assistance training.
|Hoffmann v. Marion County, Tex.||592 F. App'x 256 (5th Cir. 2014)||Plaintiffs operated a derelict-animal “sanctuary” on their ten-acre property in Marion County, Texas, where they held over one hundred exotic animals, including six tigers, several leopards, and a puma. Plaintiffs were arrested and charged with animal cruelty and forfeited the animals. Afterward, plaintiffs sued many of those involved in the events under a cornucopia of legal theories, all of which the district court eventually rejected. On appeal, plaintiffs argued Marion County and the individual defendants violated their Fourth Amendment rights by illegally searching their property and seizing the animals. The court held, however, that government officials may enter the open fields without a warrant, as the defendants did here, because “an open field is neither a house nor an effect, and, therefore, the government's intrusion upon the open fields is not one of those unreasonable searches proscribed by the text of the Fourth Amendment.” One plaintiff further alleged violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act; however, the court dismissed this claim because the plaintiff failed to allege how he was excluded from a government benefit or effective service as a result of not having an interpreter during the investigation or arrest. The other claims were either dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, not being properly appealed, or not stating a proper cause of action. The district court’s grant of summary judgment was therefore affirmed.|
|Housing Authority of the City of New London v. Tarrant||1997 WL 30320 (Conn. 1997)||
A mother renting housing alleged that her son was "mentally challenged" and required the companionship of a dog pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The court rejected the tenant's allegations that her son had a qualifying mental disability, reasoning that the son received high marks in school prior to the commencing of the eviction proceedings. The court held that without evidence of a mental or physical disability, no reasonable accommodation is required.
|In re Kenna Homes Cooperative Corporation||557 S.E.2d 787 (W.V. 2001)||
The owners of a cooperative unit kept a dog in their dwelling despite a no pets policy. There was, however, an exception in the policy for service animals, and the Jessups argued that the small dog they kept was necessary due to various medical problems they had, including arthritis and depression. The housing authority denied the request, stating that only animals certified for the particular disability qualify as a "service animal." The West Virginia Court of Appeals held that a housing authority may require that a service animal be properly trained without violating federal law.
|Janush v. Charities Housing Development Corp.||169 F.Supp.2d 1133 (N.D. Ca., 2000)||
Tenant brought action under the Federal Fair Housing Act alleging that her landlord failed to reasonably accommodate her mental disability by refusing to allow her to keep companion animals in her rental unit. Tenant put forth evidence establishing that the animals lessened the effects of her mental disability by providing companionship. The housing authority argued that only service dogs are a reasonable accommodation. The court rejected the housing authority's argument, holding that animals other than service animal can be a reasonable accommodation for a disability. Also, the court noted that whether an accommodation is reasonable is a fact-specific inquiry, requiring an analysis of the burdens imposed on the housing authority and the benefits to the disabled person.
|Kennedy House, Inc. v. Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations||143 A.3d 476 (Pa. Commw. Ct. July 11, 2016)||
In this case, Kennedy House appealed the lower court’s decision in finding that it had violated Section 9–1108 of the Philadelphia Fair Practice Ordinance when it denied Jan Rubin’s request for a housing accommodation in the form of a waiver of its no-dog policy. Rubin applied for a housing accommodation at Kennedy House because she suffered from multiple physical aliments. In a meeting with Kennedy House, Rubin did state that her dog was not a trained service animal that helped with her physical and mobility issues but rather helped with reminding her to take medication and getting out of bed. The lower court determined that Rubin had satisfied her burden of proving that her dog was necessary in helping with her medical issues. After reviewing the lower court’s decision, the Commonwealth Court held that the lower court had erred in its decisions. Ultimately, the court found that because Ms. Rubin's physician described a disability related to her mobility, and there was no evidence establishing a nexus between her mobility-related needs and the requested assistance animal, Ms. Rubin did not meet her burden necessary for Kennedy House to waive its no-dog policy. As a result, the court reversed the lower court’s decision.
|Leigh v. State||58 So. 3d 396 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2011)||Philip Leigh (Defendant) appeals from an order summarily denying his motion for postconviction relief. Following a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of trafficking in cocaine and conspiracy to traffic. Defendant claimed his trial counsel was ineffective for allowing him to appear in a leg restraint and for failing to object to the presence of a dog. Apparently, the dog became disruptive on more than one occasion and was visible to the judge and jury. The Florida appellate court reversed and remanded, with a provision that the trial court could attach portions of the record that would refute the possibility that defense counsel’s failure to object to the dog’s presence indicated ineffective assistance of counsel. Since there was apparently no evidence of the dog’s presence in the record at all, the trial court was presumably obligated to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the matter.|
|Levine v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation||--- F.Supp.3d ----2015 WL 674073 (D.D.C., 2015)||This action arose from plaintiff’s experience of bringing her service dog on Amtrak trains. Plaintiff brought claims on her own behalf and on behalf of a putative class of other disabled passengers against Amtrak pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. Each claim related to Amtrak′s alleged practice of storing luggage in its train's “mobility aid” seating areas. Amtrak argued, amongst other things, that plaintiff lacked Article III Constitutional Standing because she had not suffered an injury in fact. The district court agreed and granted Amtrak′s motion to dismiss. The case was dismissed in its entirety.|
|Majors v. Housing Authority of the County of DeKalb Georgia||652 F.2d 454 (5th Cir. 1981)||
Tenant had a history of mental illness and kept a dog in her apartment despite a "no pets" policy. The housing authority refused to waive the "no pets" policy and brought an eviction proceeding. Tenant filed a complaint in federal district court alleging violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for failure to waive the "no pets" policy as a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The district court granted the housing authority's motion for summary judgment and the tenant appealed. The court of appeals held that the housing authority deprived the tenant of the benefits of the housing program by enforcing the no pets rule, reasoning that waiving the no pets rule would allow the tenant to fully enjoy the benefits of the program and would place no undue burdens on the housing authority.
|Nason v. Stone Hill Realty Association||1996 WL 1186942 (Mass. 1996)||
A tenant with multiple sclerosis took in her mother's cat when her mother became ill. The housing authority had a no pets policy and requested that the tenant remove the pet from the premises. The tenant in turn offered a letter from her physician stating that "there would be serious negative consequences for her health if she was compelled to remove the cat." The court held that the tenant did not meet her burden of proving a nexus between the cat and her multiple sclerosis, reasoning that the physician's note does not state that the cat is necessary to alleviate her symptoms and that a more reasonable accommodation may be available.
|Ohio v. George||2014-Ohio-5781 (App. Ct, 2014)||Clayton George was convicted of raping two children of his girlfriend, age six and eight at the time of the crime. Among assignments of error on appeal was that the trial court had abused its discretion in allowing Avery, a facility dog, to accompany the two children during their testimony without a showing of necessity. On appeal, the defense argued that (1) unlike the facility dogs in Tohom, Spence, and Dye, Avery was “recognizable on the record while he was in court,” (2) the prosecution failed to show necessity for having Avery at trial, and (3) the standards set in Tohom, Spence, and Dye should have applied to determine whether Avery was permitted at trial. The appellate court noted that the defense had not objected to the presence of the dog during the trial nor had he made these three points at trial, meaning that the appellate court did not need to consider them for the first time on appeal under Ohio appellate law. The assignments of error were all overruled and the judgement of the trial court was affirmed.|
|Overlook Mut. Homes, Inc. v. Spencer||666 F. Supp. 2d 850 (S.D. Ohio 2009)||The barking of Scooby the dog, caught the attention of nearby neighbors, and the Plaintiff, Overlook Mutual Housing Corporation. Overlook established a no-pet rule for its residents with an exception for service animals. Scooby's owners (the Spencers) received a letter warning them to remove the dog from their home. In response, the Spencers obtained a letter which requested that Overlook make a reasonable accommodation for their daughter Lynsey, who needed a support dog to facilitate in her psychological treatment. Overlook did not grant the Spencer's request for accommodation and filed a Complaint against them. The Spencers then filed a counter claim and Overlook then moved for summary judgment. The court stated that pet policies have to comply with the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). Based on the intent of the FHA to provide reasonable accommodation rather than public access like the ADA, HUD and the DOJ's recently revised regulations on the need for emotional support animals in HUD-assisted housing, and previous actions brought against housing providers that denied emotional support animals, this court concluded that emotional support animals can qualify as reasonable accommodations under the FHA. Further, the court held that they do not need to be individually trained like service animals. Overlook's motion for summary judgment was denied.|
|People v. Johnson||--- N.W.2d ---- 2016 WL 1576933 (Mich. App., 2016)||This case involves challenges to the courtroom procedure of allowing a witness to be accompanied on the witness stand by a support animal. Defendant Johnson appealed his convictions of criminal sexual assault after he was convicted of assaulting his six-year-old niece. During Defendant's trial, a black Labrador retriever was permitted, to accompany the six-year-old victim to the witness stand. On appeal, the Defendant first argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the use of a support animal because MCL 600.2163a(4) only allows a support person. The Court of Appeals of Michigan stated that the trial court had the inherent authority to utilize support animals. Secondly, the Defendant argued that trial counsel should have objected to the notice of a support person on the basis that allowing the witnesses to testify accompanied by the support animal violated his constitutional right to due process. The Court of Appeals stated that there is no indication that the support dog used was visible to the jury, or that he barked, growled, or otherwise interrupted the proceedings. Therefore, the objection was meritless. Next, the Defendant argued that his counsel was ineffective for failing to request various procedural protections if the support animal was used. The Court of Appeals stated that the use of a support dog did not implicate the Confrontation Clause; the presence of the dog did not affect the witnesses' competency to testify or affect the oath given to the witnesses; the witnesses were still subject to cross-examination; and the trier of fact was still afforded the unfettered opportunity to observe the witnesses' demeanor. Finally, the Defendant argued that a limiting instruction should have been provided to the jury when the support animal was utilized and this rendered his counsel ineffective. The Court of Appeals stated, that there are no Michigan jury instructions addressing the use of a support animal. Counsel was then not ineffective in failing to ask for an instruction that does not yet exist in Michigan. The Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant's convictions and sentence and remanded.|
|People v. Chenault||227 Cal. App. 4th 1503, review filed (Aug. 25, 2014)||Darrell Chenault was convicted on 13 counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 years of age and sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. On appeal he contended that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing a support dog to be present during the testimony of two child witnesses without individualized showings of necessity, and that the presence of the dog was inherently prejudicial and violated his federal constitutional rights to a fair trial and to confront the witnesses against him. The appellate court concluded that a trial court has authority under Evidence Code section 765 to allow the presence of a therapy or support dog during a witness’s testimony.” The court did “not believe that the presence of a support dog is inherently more prejudicial than the presence of a support person,” citing the New York case of Tohom. Chinault argued that “individualized showings of necessity” should have been required for F. and C. before the support dog could be present in the courtroom. The appellate court concluded however that “a case-specific finding that an individual witness needs the presence of a support dog is not required by the federal Constitution,” for which Tohom was again cited. Based on the court's review of the record, the appellate court concluded that the trial court made implicit findings that the presence of Asta, the support dog, would assist or enable F. and C. to testify completely and truthfully without undue harassment or embarrassment. The court also took measures to reduce any possible prejudice to Chenault by setting forth logistics for the entry, positioning, and departure of the support dog, along with F. and C., during jury recesses so the dog was as unobtrusive and least disruptive as reasonably possible. The judgment was affirmed.|
|People v. Spence||212 Cal.App.4th 478 (Cal.App. 4 Dist., 2012)||
In this California case, a jury convicted James Spence of two counts of sexual offenses against a child 10 years old or younger (his housemate's daughter). He was sentenced to a total term of 55 years to life. Among other issues on appeal, Spence argues the court erred by allowing a therapy dog or support canine to be present at the child's feet while she testified, and contends this was “overkill” with the additional support person present on the witness stand. Section 868.5 of the Evidence Code allows up to two support persons during testimony. The court found that the dog was not a "person" for purposes of the code. The trial judge's decision to allow the dog was discretionary. The jury was given instructions to base its decision solely on the evidence presented at trial and not on any sympathies. Further, the court found even if more specific express findings of necessity would have been proper prior to allowing both the dog and support person on the the witness stand, any error was harmless.
|People v. Tohom||969 N.Y.S.2d 123 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept.,2013)||
This case, as a matter of first impression, considers whether a trial court was authorized to allow a "therapeutic comfort dog" to be present on witness stand for a 15-year-old-girl who was the victim in a predatory sexual assault and child endangerment case. Prosecutors sought to allow a Golden Retriever named Rose to accompany the child on the witness stand while she testified at the defendant’s trial. Prosecutors cited Criminal Procedure Law provisions regarding special witnesses and pointed to Executive Law §642-a, which allows a person supportive of a special witness to be “present and accessible” during testimony by such a witness. On appeal, defendant again argued that the dog would prejudice the jury against the defendant and would convey to the jury that the witness was under stress as a result of testifying and that this stress resulted from telling the truth. In finding that the comfort dog did not violate defendant's right to a fair trial, the appellate court agreed that the trial court's interpretation of Executive Law § 642-a "special witness" provision was correct. Further, the defendant failed to show that the dog Rose's presence was inherently prejudicial.
|Priebe v. Nelson||140 P.3d 848 (Cal. 2006)||
A kennel worker who was bitten by a dog while the dog was in the care of the kennel sued the owner of the dog under a theory of strict liability under a statute and under the common law. The court found that the dog owner was not liable to the kennel worker because under the "veterinarian's rule," the kennel owner had assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog.
|Prindable v. Association of Apartment Owners of 2987 Kalakaua||304 F.Supp.2d 1245 (D. Hawaii, 2003)||
Condominium resident filed a complaint alleging the housing authority violated the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act by failing to waive the "no pets" as a reasonable accommodation for his handicap. The court held that where the primary handicap is mental or emotional in nature, an animal "must be peculiarly suited to ameliorate the unique problems of the mentally disabled," and granted the housing authority's motion for summary judgment on the issue of the housing authority's failure to make a reasonable accommodation under the FHA.
|Pruett v. Arizona||606 F.Supp.2d 1065 (D.Ariz.,2009)||
A diabetic woman in Arizona attempted to keep a chimpanzee as an assistance animal in spite of the state’s ape ban. Despite the state’s ban, the diabetic woman imported a chimpanzee with the intention of keeping him as a service animal, claiming that she was entitled to do so under the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). In September of 2007, the chimpanzee’s owner sued the State of Arizona, the Game and Fish Commission, and the Director of the Game and Fish Department in federal court claiming that they had violated her rights under the federal disability laws. According to the plaintiff, the ADA requires the state to make “reasonable accommodations” for disabled individuals; and in her case this meant the state must waive its ban on possessing “restricted” apes so that she can keep a chimpanzee in her home as a service animal. The District Court found that the plaintiff’s chimpanzee is “unnecessary” and “inadequate” to meet her disability-related needs and the animal is not a “reasonable” accommodation under the ADA because he threatens the health and safety of the community.
|Riley v. Bd. of Commissioners of Tippecanoe Cty.||Slip Copy, 2016 WL 90770, 2016 WL 90770 (N.D. Ind. Jan. 6, 2016) (unpublished)||The plaintiff filed suit based on violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act (RA) after he was denied entrance into the Tippecanoe County Courthouse with his service dog. Initially, defendant's claims were dismissed because the Court did not adequately allege that his dog was a service dog. Defendant then filed an amended complaint with plausible allegations that his dog is a service dog. The defendants moved to dismiss the case, stating that the plaintiff had not established that his dog was a service dog according to the definition listed under rules promulgated under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The court found that the plaintiff’s dog was a service dog under the definition because the dog was “individually trained to, among other things, provide [plaintiff] with balance support and assistance during episodes of PTSD.” As a result, the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case was denied.|
|Sak v. City of Aurelia, Iowa||832 F.Supp.2d 1026 (N.D.Iowa,2011)||
After suffering a disabling stroke, a retired police officer’s pit bull mix was trained to become a service dog. However, the town where the retired police officer resided had a Breed Specific ordinance that prohibited pit bulls. The retired police officer and his wife brought this suit against the city alleging that the ordinance violated his rights under Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and also sought a preliminary injunction to enjoin the city from enforcing the ordinance. The officer’s preliminary injunction was granted after the court found: 1) the officer was likely to succeed on merits of ADA claim; 2) the officer would suffer irreparable harm absent injunction; 3) the balance of equities was in favor of injunctive relief; 4) and the national public interest in enforcement of ADA trumped more local public interest in public health and safety reflected in ordinance.
|Shumate v. Drake University||846 N.W.2d 503 (Iowa. 2014)||Plaintiff Shumate was barred from bringing a dog that she was training, into the classroom and to another school event. Shumate worked as a service dog trainer, while she was a student at Drake University Law School, the Defendant in this case. In 2011, Shumate filed a lawsuit alleging that Drake University discriminated against her as a service dog trainer in violation of Iowa Code chapter 216C. She alleged that chapter 216C, implicitly provided service dog trainers with a private right to sue. The Supreme Court of Iowa held that the statute does not provide service dog trainers with a private right to sue, nor did it include them under the coverage of chapter 216. The Court reasoned that although Shumate trained dogs to assist the disabled, she was not covered because she is not a person with a disability. The Court stated that closely related statutes expressly created private enforcement actions to aid the disabled while chapter 216C does not. Because an implied right of action would circumvent the procedures of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the Iowa legislature purposely omitted a private right to sue from chapter 216C. The court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the district court's judgment dismissing Shumate's petition with prejudice.|
|Smith v. State||--- S.W.3d ---- 2016 WL 1444143 (Tex. App.--Hous. [14th Dist.],2016)||Defendant Jonas Smith was convicted of aggravated assault and appealed. He argued that the trial court (1) erred by denying his motion to suppress his warrantless arrest; (2) abused its discretion by failing to grant a mistrial after the Plaintiff referenced the Defendant’s previous incarceration; and (3) abused its discretion by allowing a child witness to testify with the assistance of a service dog. The Court of Appeal of Texas, Houston (14th Dist.)., held that: 1. The police officer had probable cause to believe that the defendant committed an act of family violence, which justified his warrantless arrest; 2. any prejudice resulting from the Plaintiff’s reference to Defendant's prior incarceration was cured by prompt jury instruction to disregard reference; 3. allowing the child witness to testify with the assistance of a service dog was not likely to prejudice the jury in evaluating the child's testimony; and 4.any error in allowing the witness to testify with the assistance of a service dog was harmless. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the defendant did not present any argument during the trial about the jury being prejudiced by the presence of the service dog. Therefore, there was nothing present for review at the appellate level. Also, the Defendant did not identify any harm from the use of a service dog. The Defendant’s conviction was affirmed.|
|Southeastern Community College v. Davis||99 S.Ct. 2361 (1979)||
Applicant to nursing program brought suit against the college alleging discrimination under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for denying her acceptance to the program based on her physical disability of being deaf. The college alleged that the applicant was not "otherwise qualified" under the statute because, even if provided accommodations for her hearing disability, she would be unable to safely participate in the clinical training program. The court held that "otherwise qualified" under the statute means that a person is qualified for the program "in spite of" the handicap, and that the applicant here was not otherwise qualified for the program. The court also held that a program authority is not required to ignore the disability of the applicant when determining eligibility for the program. Rather, the statute only requires that the disabled person not be denied the benefits of the program solely because of the disability.
|Stamm v. New York City Transit Authority||Not Reported in F.Supp.2d 2011 WL 1315935 (E.D.N.Y., 2011)||Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and New York State and New York City laws, alleging that the New York City Transit Authority (“NYCTA”) and the Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (“MaBSTOA”) (collectively, “Defendants”) failed to ensure that their vehicles and facilities were accessible to her and other persons with disabilities who utilize service animals. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff (1) was not disabled, (2) was not entitled to use a “service animal,” (3) was seeking to bring dogs which do not qualify as “service animals” onto Defendants' vehicles; had not made out a Title II claim and (5) could not make out a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants' motion for summary judgment was granted only with respect to that portion of the eleventh cause of action that alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress. The parties were also directed to submit supplemental briefing.|
|State v. Devon D.||90 A.3d 383 (Conn.App, 2014)||The defendant, Devon D., appeals from the judgments of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of eleven offenses, in three separate files with three different docket numbers, pursuant to three separate informations, involving three different victims. Devon asserted that the prosecution as to the charges concerning C1 should have been separated from the charges as to C2 and C3, and that the evidence from C1’s case should not have been cross-admissible as to C2 and C3, an argument the Connecticut Appellate Court accepted as justifying reversal. Devon also argued on appeal that “the court improperly permitted the state to have a dog sit near C1 while she testified to provide comfort and support to her.” The appellate court concluded that the trial court had abused its discretion in permitting the use of the dog to comfort and emotionally support C1 while she testified without requiring the state to prove that this special procedure was necessary for this witness. At trial, defense counsel specifically told the trial court he was not making a confrontation clause claim as to the presence of the dog, and the appellate court therefore considered such a claim waived. Despite the absence of statutory authority for permitting a facility dog, the appellate court did conclude that the trial court had “inherent general discretionary authority” to permit such a dog, but also determined that this discretion was abused under the facts of the case. The judgments are reversed and the cases are remanded for new trials.|
|State v. Dye||283 P.3d 1130 (Wash.App. Div. 1,2012)||
In this Washington case, Defendant Dye appeals his conviction for residential burglary. The victim in the case was an adult man with significant developmental disabilities. At trial, the State obtained permission to allow a dog named "Ellie" to sit at the victim's feet during testimony. On appeal, Dye contends that his right to a fair trial was compromised because the dog's presence improperly incited the jury's sympathy, encouraged the jury to infer victimhood, and gave Lare an incentive to testify for the prosecution. The court found no prejudice to defendant from the presence of the dog, especially in light of the jury instructions to ignore her. Affirmed.
|State v. Dye||309 P.3d 1192 (Wash.,2013)||
The Defendant appealed his conviction for residential burglary. The victim in the case was an adult man with significant developmental disabilities. At trial, the State obtained permission to allow a dog named "Ellie" to sit at the victim's feet during testimony. On appeal of the Court of Appeal's decision, the Supreme Court held that defendant failed to establish that his rights to a fair trial were violated (283 P.3d 1130 (Wash.App. Div. 1,2012)). Further, any prejudice that resulted from Ellie's presence was minor and largely mitigated by the limiting instruction that the trial court gave. The Court found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion and the Court of Appeals decision was affirmed.
|State v. Jacobs||Slip Copy (unpublished decision) 2015 WL 618098, 2015 Ohio App. LEXIS 4244 (Ct.App. 2015)||The defendant, Michael Jacobs, was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and corrupting another minor with drugs, receiving a prison sentence of four years. The victim testified with a “companion dog” at her feet. Among other assignments of error, Jacobs argued that he was denied his right to a fair trial because of the presence of the companion dog during the victim’s testimony. The child was under 15 at the time of the alleged abuse, but 17 years old when she testified. The Ohio appellate court concluded that the use of a companion dog in such a case was a matter of first impression in the state, though other comfort items, such as teddy bears had previously been used in similar situations in Ohio courts. To the defense’s objection that the witness was no longer under 15 at the time of her testimony, the appellate court stated that the defense had “failed to offer any authority to support the proposition that there is a certain age cut-off for the use of special procedures on behalf of alleged sexual abuse victims.” The court concluded that Ohio Evidence Rule 611(A), which provides that a trial court is to exercise “reasonable control over the mode and order of interrogating witnesses…” and to “protect witnesses from harassment or undue embarrassment,” was sufficiently flexible to allow the use of the dog during the trial. Having overruled all of Jacobs' assignments of error, the court affirmed the judgment of the Summit County Court of Common Pleas.|
|State v. Moore||2014 WL 1917289 (Wash.App. Div. 2)||Duane Moore appealed his conviction and sentence for second degree assault, domestic violence, after choking his wife during an argument. He argued that (1) the prosecutor committed misconduct during voir dire and closing argument when he argued facts not in evidence, made improper statements about witness credibility, and shifted the burden of proof; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed a witness to testify with a service dog; and (3) the prosecutor improperly testified at the sentencing hearing. With regard to the testimony dog issue, the court found that defendant failed to raise the issue at trial and thus failed to preserve this issue for appeal. Further, defendant failed to prove that any alleged errors were manifest. There is no evidence in the record that the dog's presence made Ms. Moore appear traumatized or victimized, and thereby violated Mr. Moore's due process rights, or acted as a comment on the evidence. The court rejected defendant's argument and affirmed the trial court.|
|State v. Reyes||Slip Copy (unpublished) 2016 WL 3090904 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 24, 2016)||Defendant, Jose Reyes, was convicted of one count of rape of a child and sentenced to thirty-two years at 100%. On appeal, defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdict and that the trial court erred in denying his motion in limine to prevent the Child Advocacy Center facility dog from being present with the victim as he was testifying. The appellate court reviewed prior relevant cases including Dye, Chenault, and Tohom, and stated that “we cannot conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in permitting the use of the facility dog, Murch, during the trial.” The attempt to assign error to the procedure was determined to be “without merit.” Other defense arguments on appeal having been similarly rejected, the appellate court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.|
|Stevens v. Hollywood Towers and Condominium Ass'n||836 F.Supp.2d 800 (N.D. Ill. 2011)||Plaintiffs brought the instant suit contending that their Condo Board's refusal to accommodate the need for an emotional support animal forced them to sell their condo. The Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state claims upon which relief could be granted. After finding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to unrestricted access for their dog despite a no pet waiver and after needing more facts to determine whether Defendants restrictions on Plaintiffs’ access to the building were reasonable, the District Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims under the Federal Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) and the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA). The District Court also found Plaintiffs' interference or intimidation allegations sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. However, the District Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ nuisance claim because Plaintiffs had not contended that Defendants unreasonably used their own property to interfere in Plaintiffs' use and enjoyment of their home, but rather, contended that Defendants made rules that interfered with the Plaintiff's ability to use the common areas of the property as they wished. Plaintiffs’ intentional infliction of emotional distress claim was also dismissed because Plaintiffs had not sufficiently alleged that Defendants' conduct was extreme or outrageous. Finally, the constructive eviction claim was dismissed because more than a year had past between the owners’ accommodation request and the sale of their condominium. In sum, Counts I, II, and III went forward, but the remainder of the complaint was dismissed. Additionally, Defendant Sudler Building Services was dismissed from the complaint.|
|Storms v. Fred Meyer Stores, Inc.||120 P.3d 126 (Wash.App. Div. 1,2005)||
This Washington discrimination case was brought by a dog owner (Storms) with psychiatric conditions against a store and its managers who refused to allow her to stay in store with her alleged service dog. The dog was trained to put herself between Storms and other people so as to keep an open area around Storms and alleviate her anxiety (a symptom of her post-traumatic stress syndrome). The appellate court found that there was sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of discrimination against Fred Meyer for refusing to allow her to shop accompanied by her dog. Testimony showed that Brandy had been specifically trained to help Storms with her particular disability by placing herself in between Storms and others in a way that alleviated her anxiety, which was further corroborated by testimony that Brandy engaged in such behavior. Thus, evidence showed that the defendants' violated RCW 49.60.215 by not allowing Storms to do her own shopping within the store because she was accompanied by a service animal.
|Thompson v. Dover Downs, Inc.||887 A.2d 458 (Del.Supr.,2005)||
Vernon Thompson appeals from a Superior Court order reversing a decision and order of the Delaware Human Relations Commission (DHRC) after Thompson was denied access to defendant's casino because Thompson insisted that his dog accompany him, but refused to answer the officials' inquiries about what his alleged support animal had been trained to perform. The DHRC determined that by denying access, Dover Downs had unlawfully discriminated against Thompson in violation of the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law. The Supreme Court here agreed with the Superior Court in reversing the DHRC. It found that Dover Downs' personnel were entitled to ask Thompson about his dog's training. Since Thompson refused to answer these questions, there is no rational basis to conclude that Dover Downs' refusal to admit Thompson accompanied was pretextual.
|United States v. Kent State University||Slip Copy, 2016 WL 5107207 (N.D. Ohio Sept. 20, 2016)||
In this case, the United States Government brought an action against Kent State University alleging that the University’s failure to have any policy in place that would allow for the University to consider emotional support animals violated the Fair Housing Act. The parties resolved their differences in the form of a consent decree and asked the court to approve the decree. The court approved the consent decree but suggested that the parties make a few additions to the decree. The first suggestion that the court made was to specify what type of qualifications were necessary to make someone a “qualified third-party” for the purpose of making a statement to the University about an individuals need for an emotional support animal. Secondly, the court suggested that the University begin reviewing the logistics of how the University would manage having animals in its housing and how the animals would be properly cared for. Lastly, the court urged the University to look at whether or not the University offered sufficient break times between classes so that a student would have enough time to check on the animal and ensure that the animal was not neglected on a routine basis.