Suit: Ban on Service Animals Violates Fair Housing Act

September 10, 2009 By JOHN RILEY

A Lindenhurst apartment complex has violated the Fair Housing Act by
excluding disabled people with service animals from renting, the federal
government charged in a lawsuit released Thursday.

On three separate occasions, according to the federal complaint, fair
housing investigators from Long Island Housing Services in Bohemia posing
as would-be renters were rejected when they told managers at Sunrise
Villas in Lindenhurst they needed service dogs.

In one case, the investigator said a dog was needed to help with a
diabetic condition, and in another an epileptic condition was cited.

“On each occasion, the testers were told that the development had a strict
‘no pets’ rule and that the complex would not rent to individuals with
service animals,” the government said.

Sunrise Villas, a 100-unit complex on Leonard Court, is owned by Sunrise
Villas Llc. The lawsuit also names the manager and assistant manager as
defendants. Two messages left at the complex seeking comment were not
returned, and a lawyer for Sunrise Villas also did not return two calls.

Under federal law, landlords are required to make “accommodations” for the
disabled. Sunrise managers, according to the lawsuit, told one of the test
applicants they would permit guide dogs for the blind, but no other
service animals.

Trained service dogs can provide early warnings to diabetics and
epileptics that allow them to take medication or seek help, said Michelle
Sanantonio, director of Long Island Housing Services, the fair housing
advocacy group that developed the case.

She said federal law also recognizes chronic depression as a disability
that can require apartments to permit a service animal. “There is a greater
acceptance of blindness as a disability requiring a service animal,” she
said. “But there are a wide array of other
conditions that can benefit from a service animal.”

The testing at Sunrise was prompted by a complaint by a disabled applicant
who was denied housing, Sanantonio said. She said “no-pets” discrimination
against the disabled was “widespread” on Long Island. The federal lawsuit
announced by Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Benton Campbell seeks an injunction
requiring the complex to alter its
practices, damages for persons who were the victims of discrimination, and
civil penalties.

“Persons with disabilities are entitled to the protections of the Fair
Housing Act,” said Campbell in a statement. “This includes the right of
individuals who require service animals to be able to rent apartments in
the same manner as individuals without disabilities.”
Those with urgent issues pertaining to the health or quality of work of
your Guide Dog are strongly advised to contact your school’s training
department. Training staff are in a position to offer professional

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