If a dog is a comfort animal, what hoops must its owner jump through to prove that the dog provides comfort? Can comfort be measured by degrees?
A U.S. Army veteran who served in Afghanistan faces eviction from his New York City residential co-op because its official rules forbid pet dogs from living on the premises. He has a Shih Tzu, acquired on doctor’s orders to counteract his post-traumatic stress disorder.
After nine months in Afghanistan, Eugene Ovsishcher returned to the U.S. suffering from nightmares, anxiety, and flashbacks. “I still see them in the foxholes, fighting,” he said in an interview, as reported by KSDK-TV.
Doctors frequently recommend dogs as part of comprehensive PTSD therapy programs. Accordingly, Ovsishcher acquired Mickey, a Shih Tzu puppy whom he credits with having helped him immensely.
“He helps me to calm down my anxiety. And sometimes when I’m stressed out, he helps me to overcome without using the strong medicine,” the veteran said. “He is my medicine.”
Ovsishcher, who reached the rank of sergeant during his stint in the U.S. military, lives with his wife, children, and Mickey in a three-bedroom unit in the Trump Village Cooperative at Coney Island, which has more than 2,000 residents — and maintains strict rules forbidding dogs that are not service animals.
As reported by KSDK-TV, Ovsishcher applied to have Mickey registered as a comfort animal, but his application was rejected.
“Listen, I fought for my country and I risked my life to make the country a better place,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing for them to kick me out.”
An attorney for the Trump Village Cooperative argues that a letter from Ovsichcher’s family doctor does not constitute sufficient proof that Mickey is a therapy dog rather than simply a pet. Both sides will argue the matter in court next month.
“I’ll win or I’ll die fighting. I’m a soldier,” Ovsishcher told ABCLocal.
Photo: Shih Tzu standing by Shutterstock.com.