Housing authority admits discrimination was ‘a mistake’

A Southern Oregon housing agency has resolved a disability discrimination complaint by a family that faced eviction because it had a puppy being trained to detect blood sugar levels in 5-year-old Ayla, who has Type-1 diabetes.

At the time of the eviction, the puppy, a golden retriever named Lily Joy, was being trained to replace Ayla’s black Labrador, Hunter, who was dying from cancer. Hunter had been specially trained to detect the scent when Ayla’s blood sugar level fell below normal, and to notify the family by barking three times.

Lily Joy (left) and Hunter in December 2008  image via reliableanswers.com/med/doctor_dog.asp
Lily Joy (left) and Hunter in December 2008
image via reliableanswers.com/med/doctor_dog.asp

Oregon State and US federal laws prohibit housing discrimination based on disability. Bob Joondeph, executive director of Disability Rights Oregon. Service animals are not considered pets, told the San Francisco Chronicle the laws require landlords to make reasonable accommodations, including allowing service animals, even if they have policies against pets.

Ayla’s mother, Raynie Casebier provided medical evidence confirming that her daughter had diabetes and used a service dog, but the apartment complex’s management wasn’t satisfied. The family was forced to move to non-subsidized housing, and as a result of the stress, the puppy failed to bond with the girl. It is not clear from whether Ayla now has a service dog.

The housing authority has now agreed to resolve the fair housing claims, paying a total of $167,000 in damages, including penalties and legal costs. The authority also agreed to send its employees to training on state and federal discrimination law, and will let the state labour bureau monitor its handling of future accommodation requests.

Read about the settlement on the San Francisco Chronicle website

Meet the family at Reliable Answers

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