MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CN) – A horse rider with epilepsy claims a stable revoked her membership after her service dog was attacked by another dog there, and that a manager told her they would not have accepted her at all if they “had known there were so many laws about service dogs.”
Judith Wright sued Watson Pharmaceuticals, its CEO Paul Bisaro, and his employee Kathy Thomas-Brosco, in Morris County Court. Wright claims that Bisaro and Thomas-Brosco ran business correspondence for Terra Hills Farms in Warwick, N.Y., through email addresses at Watson Pharmaceuticals.
The farm itself is not a defendant.
Wright claims that Bisaro and Thomas-Brosco started soliciting her to move her horses from a competing nearby farm in January 2011. At that time, she says, they “had a lengthy discussion of Wright’s disability and her service dogs’ work to keep her safe.” Wright says they had an in-person meeting to discuss her service dog.
Her service dog, Connor, is trained to alert her “up to two hours in advance of a seizure” and “will lay across Wright to protect her from injury during the event.”
Wright says they all agreed that Connor “would require space to lay out a small rug … for him to sit and watch Wright ride and sit outside the horses’ stalls.”
She says the farm agreed that “Connor was also not to be interfered with by stable employees or boarders” and that the farm “didn’t have a problem accommodating clients with disabilities” and had worked with service dogs before.
A few days later, Wright says, she moved her two horses, Gillian and Cadiz, from New Milford, N.J. to Terra Hills Farms. She says problems began in the spring when she was bitten at the farm by a dog named Hobby, who was owned by Thomas-Brosco.
Wright says Hobby bit her in the finger so hard that “it took six hours for the bleeding to stop,” during which time “no assistance was offered.” She claims that “no meaningful steps were taken to restrain the dog in response to this attack.”
In August, Wright says, another dog, named Bear, “viciously attacked” Connor, leaving him with “five deep puncture wounds” including “two deep tissue wounds to the chest, barely missing his heart and lungs.”
Wright says these injures were “life-threatening, rendering Connor unable to function as Wright’s service dog.” She claims that whether Connor can return to full-time duty “is currently still in question.”
It was after this incident that issues began, Wright says.
She says both Thomas-Brosco and Bisaro told her to “keep this off the farm” and “refused to report the attack to the proper authority nor to take any responsibility for the attack which had occurred.”
Wright says she contacted Animal Control about the incident, but not before the farm “attempted to coerce or pressure [her] to execute a legal release of all claims relating to the attack on Connor.”
Wright says that after a hearing on the attack was scheduled, she received an email from Thomas-Brosco informing her that the farm was terminating their agreement, saying, “we do believe it is best for both you and the farm.”
When Wright said she might not be able to vacate in time due to Connor’s injuries, she says, Bisaro told her that “following October 10, 2011, you will not be allowed on the property”.
Wright claims she was approached “in a menacing, bullying manner” by an employee of the farm when she came in a few days later to clear out her stable out. He told her to leave, at which point Wright called the police, who sent an officer to the farm that determined “that the refusal to grant access could be construed as unlawful discrimination,” according to the complaint.
Wright says the farm then “kept [her] under close and constant surveillance” when she visited and sent a “threatening letter” to her house demanding she vacate their premises immediately under threat of eviction.
She seeks damages for negligence, discrimination, retaliation, civil rights violations, conspiracy, fraud and defamation.
She is represented by Alan Albin, of Morristown.