February 15, 2012

Feds sue NY co-op — which has a no-pets policy — for refusing to allow a "comfort dog."

"Sandra Biegel died in 2007 at age 74, a month after her family gave up the miniature schnauzer due to threats of litigation and fines by Woodbury Gardens. However, the U.S. Attorney's office is suing the Long Island co-op in federal court in Brooklyn, seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering...."

It's one thing to require these places to allow a seeing-eye dog for a blind person, but quite another to subordinate no-pets policies to those who present psychological desires/needs in medical terms. It's like the predicament we have in places that try to legalize medical marijuana. There's some core of medical need that most people recognize — such as cancer patients who are wasting away — but then you get fairly ordinary people who just want their way and are willing to portray their preferences in the requisite medical light. Drawing the line to let all those people in is worse than just allowing everyone to use marijuana.

67 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

Do you think that federal attorney ever dreamed he'd be prosecuting such important cases?

Jay said...

It's absurd to declare the President's rule about contraception and insurance coverage is completely appropriate and turn around and say the government can't mandate a Co-op to have pets for comfort.

Sofa King said...

This is craven repression and a shocking violation of free speech rights.

tim in vermont said...

Don't you love those people who declare their dogs "comfort dogs" then make a big stink to get them on an airplane?

Same with handicapped plates. Just saw somebody with a state rep plate and a handicapped tag. Whatever you do, don't say "you don't look handicapped..."

These cases ought to be judged at a town meeting where everybody shows up, the facts of the case are laid out, and the town votes by a show of hands. Settled, Done. No packing the meeting room with outside people.

Triangle Man said...

Under Althouse's rules those with seeing eye dogs will need to demonstrate that they only use the dogs to compensate for their blindness and receive no emotional benefit whatsoever.

Doesn't it come down to whether her condition qualifies as a disability and the particular animal provided benefit for that disability?

Molly said...

And say, abortions to protect the mental and emotional health of the mother.

Triangle Man said...

These cases ought to be judged at a town meeting where everybody shows up, the facts of the case are laid out, and the town votes by a show of hands. Settled, Done. No packing the meeting room with outside people

Typical Vermonter. Always looking for an excuse for a town meeting.

Matthew said...

Follow through to the AP article has this:

"The suit alleges the family of Sandra Biegel provided medical documentation that she needed the animal to cope with her disabilities."

If a doctor provided a note, then I think what the co-op will have to do is prove that it had a reasonable reason for rejecting the note, or it will lose. It wasn't just that an old lady asked for it; a doctor told them there was a medical reason she should have it. (Theoretically, the family would have to prove that not having the dog was the cause of the damage, not just that an old woman suffered from being old.)

I think it odd that when re-reporting the AP story, this story neglected to mention the doctor's medical orders.

Bob Ellison said...

Triangle Man, I think you misunderstand the Professor's point-- in fact, her statement pretty much agrees with what you say: simple liberty is preferable to bureaucrats writing rules and issuing exemptions.

Matthew said...

On the other hand, what sort of jerk says no to an old lady who wants a dog, if she is competent enough to care for it?

No pets policies are tyranny against man's best friend and should not stand.

hawkeyedjb said...

The neighbors are probably right to be concerned that, due to the woman's 'disability,' they will have to listen to the little mutt yap all day.

There was a famous case a few years ago in which a woman was allowed to bring a pig on an airplane, because she was too stressed to fly without it. How would you like to have that next to you in a first-class seat?

Pig people and yap-dog people should go off and live together somewhere. My disability requires peace and quiet, and no goddamn pigs.

Patrick said...

Really, I think we should look at this as good news. It means that all of the important problems have been handled, and the Feds can focus on stuff like this.

Yippee!

Triangle Man said...

@Bob Ellison

You may be entirely correct, but I read the description of "people who just want their way" as applying to the subject of the article. If it was just a hypothetical group, then *woosh*.

chickenlittle said...

@Althouse: I don't think your logic make general sense. Try and back out the specifics and look at the general:

There's some core need for X that most people recognize but then you get fairly ordinary people who just want X and are willing to portray themselves as needing X. Drawing the line to let all those people in is worse than just allowing everyone to have X.

I think that your logic requires that X be specified.

fleetusa said...

I don't think this is an area for the DOJ's involvement.

Locals should settle local issues.

As for a doctor's prescription: were not many issued during the WI rebellion last year to excuse all types of "illnesses".

Matthew said...

Fleet: If the doctor's orders are bogus, then the co-op will need to prove that, or show that it held that as a reasonable belief. For example, with WI, we have that reasonable belief because we saw doctors in videos doing it and heard them admitting to doing it.

If the co-op saw the doctor's order, and decided: "Eh, what does he know" the answer is going to be: "A lot. He's a doctor." It is not the answer that they'll want during a court case.

RonF said...

So what's wrong with allowing everyone to use marijuana?

Fen said...

So what's wrong with allowing everyone to use marijuana?

Need better ways to test for abuse on-scene. The cop that pulls you over for DUI can't tell if the THC in your system is from last night or 15 minutes ago.

cubanbob said...

The DoJ is bringing a suit that the family should be bringing assuming there is any merit to begin with. The prosecutor should be fired for wasting the taxpayers money.

As for the co-op, if you can't accept the rules then don't buy. Having lived in a condo and having had the nightmare of serving on the board, it's amazing what the self entitled put the rest through. You can never go wrong in assuming the self entitled when allowed to have pets will inevitably lead to urine and feces in the hallways, odors form unit and not to mention yapping and barking because those people have no clue or desire to train their pets. Or noise or whatever it is they want. And they are usually the ones delinquent in the fees and assessments.

I can understand an accommodation for a service dog after the owner becomes disabled but the ADA has metastasized to the point the every disability no matter what must be accommodated so as Orwell phrased some of us are more equal than others.

EDH said...

Does Blogger's new (today!) distorted two-word "captcha" verification required to comment discriminate against the differently abled?

Is this the result of Althouse changing a security setting on the blog?

Ann Althouse said...

"So what's wrong with allowing everyone to use marijuana?"

That's not an issue I've raised (though I don't mind your talking about it here).

My issue is either ban it altogether, have a very specific and narrow exception, or let everyone use it.

What I don't like is a big, amorphous exception that ends up being a line between honest and dishonest people.

Brom said...

Pet-owning renters might not like no-pet rules, but the property owner is well within his/her/its rights to impose them. If you don't like the rule, don't live there.

Also: aren't all dogs "comfort dogs"? I mean, isn't that why we have pets - because they make us feel good in some way? There's a big difference between a seeing-eye dog and a "comfort dog."

Amexpat said...

So if a co-op doesn't allow children should an exception be made for comfort children?

Fen said...

aren't all dogs "comfort dogs"? I mean, isn't that why we have pets

No. We bought my father a puppy when he was undergoing his first round of chemo. It really did help his morale. I don't think he would have fought as hard or lived as long without the dog.

William said...

Posit this: The dog yaps. There's someone in the building whose quiet enjoyment of his living space is ruined because of the yapping dog. This person becomes stressed out and has a heart attack. Shouldn't the DOJ initiate proceedings to charge the dog owner with murder and the federal attorney general with being an accessory.

bagoh20 said...

I think it's cruel to refuse a pet to a dying person. If I was dying, I think a dog would be all I would really want around. But, why wouldn't they just have taken her to one that allows it. I don't see this as the Co-ops failure. I also think it's none of the government's business. If you don't like the policy, go elsewhere. There are good reasons for a facility to exclude pets, so that should be up to them - giving us a choice. The government's involvement will inevitably lead to less choice and freedom.

bagoh20 said...

"What I don't like is a big, amorphous exception that ends up being a line between honest and dishonest people."

This is exactly the problem with handicap parking permits. 90% are used by simple liars, and 90% of those are the big fat liar variety. In my area they are overwhelming also female, black and rude. I would favor domestic drone strikes on handicap parking spots as a national policy. Can I get a presidential candidate to endorse that?

Lyssa said...

What if a neighbor (who uses common areas and may have some shared airflow) is severely allergic and specifically chose that condo because it doesn't allow pets?

Bob Ellison said...

Professor, you wrote "What I don't like is a big, amorphous exception that ends up being a line between honest and dishonest people."

So the problem is trying to discern what the individual is actually thinking? I agree, of course, that this is a slippery proposition, but we do that routinely: different types of murder based on intent, liability (or the lack thereof) WRT defamation, etc.

If you're arguing that attempting to draw such a line is a mistake, where do you draw the line on such a principle?

Chuck66 said...

Not making a statement on which side is right, but there is something deeply wrong when the Federal Gov't, a $4,000,000,000,000 entity, sues a single grocery store for not allowing a dog in.

I love my country but fear my government.

Chuck66 said...

My cat wants to go to Red Lobster. I'll have to declare him a comfort cat.

MadisonMan said...

If you don't like the policy, go elsewhere.

Yes.

I rather doubt the Co-Op was the Best Place in the World to live. So why stay there?

bagoh20 said...

L.A. just reversed it's policy to fine people $1000 for playing any kind of ball or frisbee on the beach. The law has been around for decades and nobody cared or even knew about it until they raised the fine it got well known by that story. The public went ballistic and that decades old law was reversed in just over a week. The LA times wrote the story in a way defending the policy, but the internet told the other side. The power of the press is too valuable to be in the hands of only journalists. Now it's not.

Dogs are still not allowed on the beach at anytime, and not even allowed on the sidewalk in Venice Beach in the summer months. In winter I walk my dogs there all the time and there are literally thousands of dogs walking past each other every day there. I've never seen even one altercation or anyone ever bitten. I have however seen many human on human attacks and even public defecation and urination. We put leashes on the wrong species.

Bruce Hayden said...

I am no happier with comfort animals than comfort children. Ok, maybe better with comfort children, since after having one, I am somewhat immune from their noise. Or, maybe just going a bit deaf. Constantly having problems with one girl friend who never had kids, who needs us to move away from them if too close in a restaurant. She never had any, so was never immunized - though my grandmother obviously lost her immunity by the time that my youngest brothers were born.

Personally, I don't want to live all that close to anyone else's comfort animals. Ok, maybe if they were clean AND quiet.

And, they can do damage. Had a tenant in my house, and the lease called for one cat. She, apparently because of renal failure, needed 7 of them, plus a dog. All those comfort cats destroyed the flooring throughout the entire first floor. Thousands of dollars of damage.

Finally, not all of those gimp plackard users are fakes. Was skiing a lot 5-6 years ago (3-5 days a week), and would always see this car parked right up front with handicapped plates. Thought it was a bit suspicious - after all, if you could ski, you probably weren't all that handicapped. Then, one day, I saw the driver getting into his car. He had been using one of those sit down skis with outrigger skis on his poles.

JAL said...

I see our new poster Amexpat has caught on right away.

Tank said...

Baggy

You walk your dog on Venice Beach?

Oh, you lucky devil you.

What wonderful sights I saw there. No kidding.

cassandra lite said...

The other day on a cross-country flight, I sat next to a young woman with a Springer Spaniel that was wearing a service-dog vest. The dog, her constant companion, senses the seizures that plague the woman up to an hour before they happen, giving her fair warning.

She flies several times a month on business, she told me. So I asked whether any other passengers ever minded. "Maybe once," she said, explaining that on a recent red-eye she woke to find him lying in the middle seat with his head in her seatmate's lap.

The dog is supposed to just lie on the floor at her feet, but on my flight the middle seat was open, so he had more room to lie down...and for me to pet him. Best six-hour flight I ever had.

Bruce Hayden said...

The allergy thing cannot be underestimated. Have another girl friend who is highly allergic to most dogs and cats. Have to be cautious when staying in pet-friendly motels, if they have indoor entrances to the rooms.

But, that does remind me of living in an large apartment building in Denver back when I was in graduate school. A lot of old ladies lived there with their lap (presumably comfort) dogs. A friend of mine would visit with his young male elkhound. Used to be great fun when the male lap dogs would jump out of their owners' arms when sharing an elevator to mark their territory. I think that apoplectic would be charitable in describing the old ladies involved.

edutcher said...

This is no Federal case, but the statists want everything to be one.

Ann Althouse said...

Drawing the line to let all those people in is worse than just allowing everyone to use marijuana.

You're just saying that because you're still in denial about a dog of your own.

(keep working on her, Meade)

PS Quantum earned the nickname "doctor dog" because she kept an eye on The Blonde's mom and would sound off if she tried to get out of the chair, bed, etc, not to mention periodically checking to see she was still alive.

(Alzheimer's patients have to be watched all the time)

There are situations where the pet performs a useful, even necessary, function.

MadisonMan said...

Dogs are still not allowed on the beach at anytime, and not even allowed on the sidewalk in Venice Beach in the summer months.

This was how it was in Narragansett when I lived there. There is nothing more enjoyable than walking a dog on an empty beach in winter. Cold sunny day, brisk wind, waves crashing, dog running here and there chasing gulls. Then you go home for hot chocolate. Bliss.

JAL said...

Re comfort dogs -- in other settings.

Friend's elderly dad in the hospital recently and has just gone to a rehab/ skilled facility for a little bit.

He is a farmer, and really missed his dog. Son (a doc, btw) went to SuperPets, bought a collar and leash, cleaned the dog up and took him into the nursing home. Saw the pictures. Dog woke the dad up licking his hand. At one point was on the bed with him.

What's that MasterCard ad ... "Priceless."

But they weren't asking to have the dog stay overnight.

The Biegels moved into the co-op in 2005, when the no-pets policy was already in effect, and purchased the pooch in 2006 to help Sandra cope with depression and relax her strained breathing.

This. This is the problem. She was ill when they moved into the co-op.

The no pet policy was in place at the co-op at the time. They bought the dog (Cute. And little.) knowing there was a no pet policy.

While I am all for pets and comfort dogs and the like ....

They should not have moved into a place where they could not have a dog. If that was the priority (a dog) they should have made arrangements to move to a pet friendly place.

Maybe they were going on the "It's easier to get forgiveness later than permission now." thing. And it didn't work.

Expecting other people to take up the slack when the primary responsibility rests on you is not responsible.

JAL said...

Is this anything like the Obamacare mandate that Catholics and other religious groups have to change their policies and violate their conscience to please the wants of a small group?

("We don't care what you believe or why or what yor stinkin' rules are ....")

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

If allergies are at issue, then seeing-eye dogs, hearing-ear dogs, and other animals trained to perform essential tasks for the disabled can't really be exempt, can they? If an accident makes you blind, and you need a seeing-eye dog so that you're not permanently trapped in your apartment, sorry, you have to move. Someone else might start sneezing. Yes?

Re: Ann's point about exemptions drawing a line between the honest and the dishonest, with the latter the beneficiaries -- yes, there's certainly that problem. (With medical marijuana, it's not just a "problem," it's practically the whole thing.) But a dying woman with a pet for companionship -- that doesn't sound like something eviction-worthy to me. Then again, I grew up in a household full of pets of all kinds, so I probably should recuse myself.

Re: the "yappy" thing, has no one thought of breeding basenjis as "comfort dogs"? They don't bark.

Oh, and handicapped placards: Yes, there is fraud and fudging there, but not so much of it as people like to think. There are people who look able-bodied but yet cannot walk far. My dad had a placard for a while after a bout with interstitial pneumonia that had him on a lung transplant list for months, until he gained enough lung function back that he didn't need to be there any more. He didn't look disabled, but even small distances on foot were a serious effort. (Not any more, thank goodness; he routinely walks miles now, a couple years into his recovery. But at the time it was all very short walks and supplemental oxygen.)

wv: grande.

tim maguire said...

All house pets are comfort animals. All of them. IMO, the comparison of this case to marijuana legalization is facile.

Amexpat said...

I see our new poster Amexpat has caught on right away.

Not sure exactly what I caught.

Also, I'm not new. I've been posting here for years, just changed my handle at the beginning of 2012(previously posted as Hamsun56 and then Sheepman).

EMD said...

Pet-owning renters might not like no-pet rules, but the property owner is well within his/her/its rights to impose them. If you don't like the rule, don't live there.

THIS. IN SPADES.

If you want to have a dog, MOVE.

The onus is not on the co-op in this situation. This is a bogus case and should be tossed out.

Can I get a doctor's note I need an outbuilding on my property even though my HOA would prohibit it?

And what the fuck is the DOJ doing here? Wasting time and money.

Steve Koch said...

We have a miniature Schnauzer, they are great dogs but really bark a lot (probably would be a big problem in multi-unit housing). Really sad that the poor lonely old lady was deprived of the comfort and companionship of her dog.

Having said that, the government should be pushing us around as little as possible. Voting for Obama/dems was voting to have the gov push us around.

Hagar said...

I am with William.

Tank said...

Tim

Facile.

Good word.

Two dollar word for sure.

I like that.

No kidding.

While often the simple answer is the best answer, I like a nice word like that.

WV: dinger - another good word.

Petunia said...

They moved in in 2005. The no-pet policy was in place when they moved in. They got the dog sometime in 2006. She died in October 2007. She had pulmonary hypertension, diabetes, and a mental illness.

Her husband claims she only became ill AFTER they moved in. Hmm.

The ADA has been amended so that animals like pigs and monkeys are no longer covered. A business owner cannot demand to see any kind of certification that the animal is indeed a service animal.

You can ask whether the person with the dog has a disability, and whether the dog helps with that disability. That's about it. You can ask the person to leave if the animal is disruptive or aggressive. Most legitimate service animals would not be.

SGT Ted said...

This was predicted by opponents of the ADA. That some persons ordinary wants and desires would be medicalized as a "need" and be under doctors prescription and then use that and the ADA to bend others to their will.

Ok now I am going to find a doctor that will prescribe my need for large amounts of cash in order to be happy, then get someone else to pony it up.

Sigivald said...

I agree, on your digression at the end.

I think pot (really, pretty much every drug) should be legal - but I also get disgusted by the antics of the "medical marijuana" crowd trying to tell me it's all about sick people.

They're not fooling anyone. I don't know if they're even fooling themselves, but they're sure as hell not fooling me.

(Which, again, just undercuts the effectiveness of a push for legalization - I agree with them on the topic, and they're still annoying me with their stupid posturing.

Pot advocacy groups are legalization's worst enemy, perhaps. They're really bad at measured and accurate discourse.

[Cheap shot: Because they're too high to think straight.])

Sigivald said...

Matthew asked: On the other hand, what sort of jerk says no to an old lady who wants a dog, if she is competent enough to care for it?

One who moved in knowing there was a no pets policy with the intention of avoiding barking, dog smells, and allergens?

(Which even a very well-cared-for dog produces, typically - all three of them.)

Can't people deliberately choose to not live around pets without someone else's personal desires interfering?

What sort of jerk forces people who don't want to live around dogs to do so for their own personal benefit?

Or maybe, just maybe, it's not that either party is especially jerk-y, and that both sets of rights and preferences are valid and worthy of consideration?

(Full disclosure: I don't care. I like pets and own my own home and am not elderly - so I have no skin in this game.)

Peter said...

'Triangle Man' said, "Doesn't it come down to whether her condition qualifies as a disability and the particular animal provided benefit for that disability"

Or perhaps what it comes down to is, if you (or an advocacy group that is willing to represent you) is willing to engage in grinding litigation then in the end everything is a "disability" and we're all "disabled"?

When the ADA was passed, the halls of congress were filled with people in wheelchairs. And ADA had public support because the public formed an image of someone in a wheelchair encountering a physical barrier.

Would it have passed if the public imagined that what it really was about was someone claiming a psychological need to keep a "comfort animal" in a residence that does not allow pet dogs?

PatCA said...

AJ, no suit is too small if it extends the reach of the Dear Leader!

I'm sure the co-op told them the rules when they moved in. I would guess this suit is a reaction against the rules once the little yapper was discovered.

S said...

As far as I'm seeing, this wasn't a specially-trained "comfort dog", this was just whatever dog they happened to get after moving in to a place that didn't allow dogs, right?

Seeing eye dogs are not necessarily hypo-alergenic, but they are trained. An establishment that allows seeing eye dogs (whether or not the law requires it) is, in accommodating the blind people who have them, disaccommodating the allergic, but not seriously imposing on people who don't want to hear dogs or put up with dogs jumping up on them. I have no idea how well behaved this dog was, but I think it's more reasonable to assume that a specially trained service animal can be assumed to be well behaved than it is a random dog.

In other words, the main reason for a service animal exception to a "no animals" policy is that the benefits of having the service animal are higher than the benefits of having a typical pet. But the costs are also likely to be lower.

RonF said...
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RonF said...
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RonF said...

There is nothing more enjoyable than walking a dog on an empty beach in winter. Cold sunny day, brisk wind, waves crashing, dog running here and there chasing gulls.

There is little less enjoyable than walking on an empty beach in winter on a cold sunny day with brisk wind, waves crashing, gulls soaring, watching the sun set and then stepping in a pile of dog shit.

Understand that I'm a dog lover. My dog died 2 years ago and I miss her terribly. It's not the dog's fault, it's human carelessness, but the result is the same.

lgv said...

One person's comfort is another person's misery.

We have a mini schnauzer, our second. They are barkers. It's their nature. While they can be trained to some degree, they will bark and bark a lot unless you are there to tell them to stop.

I agree with Althouse's point of view. Therefore, all civil servants and union members should retire on disability. Oh, wait, that's not what we were talking about.

Methadras said...

The nazi's that run new york co-ops should just be sued because. Pick a reason, it's probably valid.

Kirk Parker said...

Fen,

"The cop that pulls you over for DUI can't tell if the THC in your system is from last night or 15 minutes ago. "

And...?

MadisonMan said...

There is little less enjoyable

Heh. I was in Athens (well, Glyfada, south of Athens on the water) walking on the beach there, and saw a beautiful dog playing with its owner. And then it went into the water, and I'm thinking aah, the poor thing has to cool off and then it assumed the characteristic position. Went in the water indeed.

Joe said...

Places should be able to ban seeing eye dogs too. There simply are places where animals aren't appropriate. In other cases, people do have a allergic reactions to pet fur and may have deliberately found a place with such a ban.

(My apartment complex bans pets, but grants so many exceptions, it essentially has no ban.)

Carol_Herman said...

YES! Co-op and condo rules are burdensome to everyone who buys into their buildings!

HOPE THE CO-OP LOSES MILLIONS OF DOLLARS! Scare the pants off a few who wave their regulations into other people's faces. Including some people who wanted nothing more than to put up a flagpole. So they could fly the Stars & Stripes.

We seem to be watching dominoes starting to fall. After the actor killed himself, because he was forced to put his heathy, and beloved dog, "down."

I hope we get to see the rubble bounce, ahead.

HT said...

The article is not clear, that's the first problem.

She had the dog? For how long? Why was the dog ever allowed in the first place?

Can't comment on this until we know the story.

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