Man Insists His Cats Are Assistance Animals

FORT WORTH (CN) – Cats qualify as assistance animals and cannot be grounds for eviction from an assisted living facility with a “no pets” policy, a disabled Texan claims in court.
     Gary Don Coleman, 45, sued TCG Assisted Living at Mirabella, TCG Benbrook AL, Sagora Senior Living, and Janel Dunn – operators of the Mirabella Assisted Living Facility in Fort Worth – on Aug. 18 in Tarrant County Court.
     Coleman claims he has been disabled since birth with spina bifida, scoliosis and other severe ailments. He has no family and lives with two cats, Milo and Rex, that he says are not pets.
     Coleman says that when he moved to the facility in October 2012, his cats were allowed and it was written on his lease that he was authorized to have the two cats for “therapy.”
     “Almost two years later, on August 1, 2014, defendants taped a letter to Gary Coleman’s front door informing him that ‘pets’ were no longer allowed in shared apartments at Mirabella and that he needed to find another home for his animals within ten days,” the complaint states. “This new rule only affects residents receiving government assistance in shared apartments. It does not affect any ‘private pay’ residents at Mirabella who have animals. Gary Coleman pleaded with defendants’ management to allow him to keep his animals because he needed them to due to his disability. Management refused.”
     Coleman claims that in response to a letter he submitted asking for reasonable accommodation of his assistance animals, management told him his lease was being terminated and he had to move out by Sept. 11.
     Mirabella did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
     Bryan McCaleb, president of Sagora Senior Living, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that management has “attempted to make contact with Coleman and his attorney to resolve the situation.”
     “We have reviewed all of the files and documentation and we do not have any documentation on the resident’s two cats being certified as therapy animals,” McCaleb said in a statement Thursday. “We have requested from the resident, their legal counsel and power of attorney to provide us with the certified animal documentation which has not been provided as of today [Aug. 20].”
     Coleman’s attorney, Randy Turner in Fort Worth, told the newspaper he had provided information from Coleman’s psychologist showing his need for the animals. Turner disputed the need for the cats to be “certified” as therapy animals.
     “Mirabella simply does not understand the Fair Housing Act or the law on assistance animals,” he said. “There is no such thing as a certified therapy animal and the law does not require that an animal be certified in any way before a landlord must provide accommodations.”
     Coleman seeks an injunction and actual and punitive damages for violations of the Texas Fair Housing Act, Fort Worth City Code and the Texas Property Code.

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