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Pit bull Assistance Animals, Sept. 16, 2014

Pit bull Assistance Animals in Miami-Dade County

Plus, ruling on BDL in Clay, AL

September 16, 2014

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lahartAttorney Fred Kray and the rest of the PBLNR crew welcome Marcy Lahart, Esq., who discusses a case in which her client had to sue his condo association to keep his dog. Her client owned a condo in Miami-Dade county but had been living in Philadelphia. During his time in Philly, he acquired an emotional support dog. He sent the condo assn a request for accommodation and a letter from his psychiatrist. In response, the condo assn's property manager advised that they could do this the easy way (give up) or the hard way (wait for months when the condo association requested all his medical records). Instead, he hired Ms. Lahart and sued. More than a year later, the client and the condo assn are negotiating a settlement.

Ms. Lahart's client's dog is one-quarter AmStaff and the condo assn brought up the dog's breed as a rationalization for its refusal to allow the dog. However, in ruling against the condo assn's motion for summary, the judge held that a local ordinance (the breed ban) did not trump the Fair Housing Act (the ADA was not implicated because the dog was not a service animal).

Meanwhile, in Alabama, a judge found that Clay's breed-discriminatory law was unconstitutional. While we were expecting the law's lack of due process to be the issue that the judge would look to, the judge instead attacked the law as lacking a rational basis. The argument that a law lacks a rational basis is usually a losing one as it doesn't take much to comprise rational basis. In this case, the town manager could only point to fear of pit bulls—not any incidents involving pit bulls in the town—as the basis for the law. This was not enough for the judge, who referenced the Diaz case. The Diaz holding noted that rational basis was a question of fact, and thus a question for a jury. Since there had been no pit bull attacks in Clay, no Clay jury would be able to point to facts that would provide a rational basis for Clay's breed-discriminatory law.

Yvette Van Veen and Kris Diaz discuss the importance of observing your dog carefully and taking notes—it can help you really understand what your dog's "triggers" are if the dog is reactive and understand your own biases in training. Taking notes will also preserve an honest recollection of what has happened with your dog. Also, be wary of labeling your dog.

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