Service dogs are not pets, but some people just don’t get that.
That’s the most charitable interpretation of the story that follows. A more pessimistic (and perhaps realistic) way of looking at it is that for some people, the misfortune and illness of others is just one more way to make a buck.
Whichever way you choose to look at it, disabled army vet David Palasek has lost his home. Pasalek was evicted last month from the mobile home in Bandera, Texas, where he lived because he refused to pay a “pet fee” demanded by his landlord, Guilot Realty Inc. Pasalek fought the fee for months before he was handed an eviction notice in November. By that time, the fee had increased to $2,500.
Palasek served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he suffers from a traumatic brain injury and injuries to the neck, spine, knee, and shoulder. In addition, he’s a survivor of testicular cancer, which his doctor says was caused in part by the gunner’s harness he wore.
Part of dealing with all of those problems is Checkers, Palasek’s four-year-old certified service dog. “He knows what his role is,” Palasek told KHOU television. “He supports me mentally, emotionally, physically.”
The “pet fee” charged by Guilott is obviously inappropriate: The Fair Housing Act explicitly says that service animals are not pets, and they not subject to housing regulations intended for pets:
An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or it provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.
When a tenant has a legitimately qualified service animal, according to the act’s standards:
[T]he FHAct and Section 504 require the housing provider to modify or provide an exception to a “no pets” rule or policy to permit a person with a disability to live with and use an assistance animal(s) in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services.
Unfortunately, the situation that Palasek finds himself in is not uncommon. There’s a lot of genuine misunderstanding about the rights of service animals, and a lot of people just don’t care. Even worse, people with the kinds of severe disabilities and illnesses that require a service animal often lack the resources to speak for themselves.
Palasek, to his credit, is fighting back. He and Guilott are facing each other in court. According to KHOU’s report, company president Gay Guilott denied even that they had evicted Palasek:
Ms. Guilott denied Palasek was evicted when reached on the phone Wednesday, then stated we had interrupted her lunch. She hung up before answering any other questions.
We wish David Palasek the best of luck in getting answers to some of those questions himself, and with finding a new home so that he can continue to heal.
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