LawCall - therapy dog

For several years, Ina Gray had been living on Social Security disability after having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She also suffered with depression and, as a result, could not hold down a job.

By late fall, Ina felt herself falling into a deep depression. Her depression often worsened during the fall and winter. Her depression made her feel suicidal and hopeless; she said she just didn’t think she could get through another day. She found herself unable to get out of bed on some days.

That’s when Ina began thinking about getting a dog. She thought the dog would help her get up and about, but she knew her new apartment co-op board at Mason Woods Apartments didn’t allow pets.

Ina decided to write to the co-op board asking them to waive the policy and allow her to have a small dog. In her letter she stated that according to The Fair Housing Act, “it is unlawful discrimination to deny a person with a disability ‘a reasonable accommodation of an existing building rule or policy if such accommodation may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises.’”

In her plea, she included letters from her doctor and psychiatrist saying that a dog would help with her severe depression disorder.

The board denied her request.

A few months later, Gray moved to a complex that allowed pets, and she adopted a small dog who she trained to be her therapy dog.

She then filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against the apartment complex from which she had moved.

The legal question was whether the requested accommodation would have lessened the effect of the disability. In other words, would the dog have helped? Or would it have just been a pet?

Does Ina Gray have a case?

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