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Cats or dogs? The court will weigh in

Some people in Wisconsin don't like pets at all, although most people when asked will define themselves as either a cat person or a dog person. They are distinctly different types of pets. A dog is happy to see you every time you come home while a cat may or may not deign to greet you at all. A cat is typically fastidiously clean while a dog can roll in raccoon droppings and be quite pleased with himself or herself after the effort.

Although it may seem like common sense to most of us that a dog and cat are very different types of pets, a condominium association is claiming that a companion dog is not allowed for a disabled person, but a companion cat would be allowed. The court will weigh in on this issue.

A 55-year-old brain damaged woman is currently receiving Social Security disability benefits. As part of her ongoing medical care, her physician, psychologist and social worker have agreed that a trained companion dog is recommended for the woman. The woman's condo association would not allow the 15 pound King Cavalier King Charles spaniel in the building and suggested that she get a cat instead.

After months of negotiation with the condo association, the 55-year-old filed a lawsuit via Legal Aid, maintaining that the federal Fair Housing Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act were violated when the condo association refused to accommodate her disability.

The association's attorney responded that if in fact she is disabled, that a cat would be a reasonable accommodation and adequate substitute for a dog.

People with disabilities are unfortunately put in the position of fighting for their rights on a regular basis. In this case, the Social Security Administration has determined that the 55-year-old has a disability, although the condo association is not quite as certain. The case will be decided in federal court.

Source: ABA Journal, "Federal Court Service Animal Ruling Sought: Can a Companion Cat Fill the Paws of a Companion Dog?" Martha Neil, Sept. 14, 2012

At our La Crosse law firm we represent individuals who wish to obtain Social Security Disability benefits for mental conditions such as the brain damage suffered by the woman in this posting.


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La Crosse, WI 54601

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