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Feds Say Co-Op Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog

BROOKLYN (CN) - A Coney Island apartment building bars residents with disabilities from keeping emotional-support dogs, the U.S. government claims in a federal suit.

The 18-page complaint alleges that from May 2012 to March 2015 Trump Village Section IV Inc. and a former member of its board of directors, Igor Oberman, refused to allow residents to have emotional-support dogs.

Some residents of the 1,144-unit cooperative building lost their parking spaces and faced eviction threats for complaining, according to the Dec. 23 complaint.

"Trump Village has historically prohibited its residents from keeping animals in their apartments," the lawsuit signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Melanie Hendry states.

Though the building at 2928 W. 5th St. bars emotional-support animals, it lets some owners have dogs that weigh less than 35 pounds, if the owners register them, pay a $50 annual fee and provide a DNA sample of the pet, the government complains.

At least six residents have complained of the disparate treatment to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

U.S. Attorney Robert Capers released a statement in conjunction with the action, saying the Fair Housing Act clearly holds "that reasonable accommodations must be granted to individuals with disabilities when those accommodations are necessary to afford them the equal opportunity to use and enjoy their homes."

"This includes the right to live with an emotional support animal," Capers added.

The six complaining residents whom the government mentions in the lawsuit are Eugene and Galina Ovsischer, Nicole Sable Bell; Neil and Imma Lomanov and Barbara Snyder.

Snyder's complaint was resolved through the HUD "conciliation process" in July 2013. Under the terms of the agreement, Trump Village's board agreed that it would allow people to require emotional support animals to have them.

But the board never followed through, the 18-page lawsuit states.

"Even though they received training and agreed to comply with the Fair Housing Act ... defendants refused to allow two residents to keep their emotional support animals and retaliated against those individuals for attempting to enforce their rights," the lawsuit states.

Eugene Ovsischer, an Army veteran, has post-traumatic stress disorder, a "high level of anxiety" and a fear of being alone, the government notes, saying doctors prescribed him an emotional-support dog.

Though Ovsischer and his wife jumped through the necessary hoops, Trump Towers gave the couple their walking papers in March 2012.

That June, Brooklyn Judge Kimberley Moser jumped dismissed holdover proceedings.

The Ovisishchers allegedly then faced retaliation by finding themselves on a waiting list to get one of the 1,700 spots in the building's two parking lots.

"As a result of defendant Oberman's directive, at least one shareholder who was lower on the waiting list moved ahead of the Ovishchers and was given a parking space before them," according to the complaint.

The government says they finally landed a slot in October 2014.

Though Mrs. Ovsischer won a seat on the building's board of directors in 2012, hearings quickly commenced to get her off, according to the complaint.

The government says Bell lived in the complex since 2011, and suffers with "anxiety, stress, shame, self-imposed isolation, and feelings of loss of control during speech."

Bell had an emotional-support dog long before she moved into Trump Village, but allegedly received a 10-day notice to get out in December 2014.

Her family has lived in the building for more than 20 years, but her assigned parking spot was yanked in retaliation for her complaints against the notice to evict her, according to the complaint.

Plaintiff Lomanov has lived in the building since 2010 and has depression, can't sleep and has other "relational problems," the complaint states.

The building allegedly tried to give her the boot in March 2014 for keeping her emotional-support dog.

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