Woman Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Sues to Keep Her Therapy Dog Under Fair Housing, Disability Laws

Posted on October 19, 2009

Concord Resident’s Lawsuit Alleges Discrimination as She Fights Eviction from Her Mobile Home Park Residence of Nineteen Years

For Immediate Release

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Theresa and Manny at their home.SAN FRANCISCO – Represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Bay Area Legal Aid and solo attorney David Grabill, Concord’s Theresa Huerta is filing an amended complaint in U.S. District Court today against the owners of Willow Pass Mobile Home Park, who are attempting to evict her after nineteen years of residence because her canine companion Manny’s breed is not approved by the mobile home park.

According to her doctors at Contra Costa County Health Services, 52-year-old Huerta suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and other health impairments qualifying her as “disabled” as a result of being violently assaulted in 2007, and they assert that Manny’s companionship provides important treatment for her illnesses, removing stress and comforting her. After recently reporting to governmental agencies certain conditions in the park which appeared to violate health and safety regulations, Huerta received a letter from the Willow Pass managers telling her she either had to get rid of Manny or be subject to eviction.

Theresa gets a kiss from Manny.Huerta adopted Manny in January 2009, taking him into her home and nursing him back to health after he’d been abandoned by his owner and hit by a car, suffering serious injuries. His parentage is unknown, though the defendants claim he appears to be a mix that includes one of the several breeds colloquially referred to as a “pit bull.” Manny has a very friendly disposition, is obedient to commands, and has never exhibited aggressive behavior towards people or other animals. Most importantly, Manny is critical in relieving the effects of Huerta’s health impairments, allowing her to feel safe in her home and qualifying him as a “reasonable accommodation” for her disability. Huerta had owned another mixed breed dog who looked like Manny for ten years prior to adopting Manny, and many other residents of the mobile home park own dogs of a range of breeds, including ones appearing to be “pit bulls.”

MannyHuerta worked over 13 years as a bilingual instructor for the Oakland and Mount Diablo School Districts, but has been unable to work since her attack, and she will likely become homeless if she is evicted from her Willow Park home of 19 years. “Both Federal and California state fair housing and civil rights laws provide that Ms. Huerta should be allowed the ‘reasonable accommodation’ of her beloved companion Manny, who is providing her with crucial therapeutic value and helping her live with a sense of security, something she was so unfairly robbed of on the day she was assaulted,” says ALDF attorney Bruce Wagman, lead counsel in Huerta’s case. “Our laws guarantee that disabled Americans must be protected from housing discrimination, and health care providers confirm that the support of a beloved animal companion like Manny can make the crucial difference in allowing disabled persons like Ms. Huerta to move forward with dignity.”

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