Woman Said She Was Refused Housing Because Of Therapy Dog’s Breed

KALAMAZOO, Mich.  (April 30, 2014)– “She’s been an emotional support animal for two years.  I’m starting to tear up,” said Abigail Janes, Atheena’s owner.

The American Staffordshire Terrier, which looks like a pit bull, is her nationally registered emotional therapy dog that helps Janes deal with anxiety and depression.

“She’s just there to help me to relieve some of my anxiety and get through my day,” said Janes.

The dog has a service badge, an ID number and a service dog coat.

“She knows that when we put on the vest it’s good girl time,” said Janes.

She’s also been a member of the family, watching over her daughter, Gracie, and calming Abigail’s fears as her son Jace,  a premature baby, fights for life in the intensive care unit.

The reason Abigail thought she might have to give Atheena up?  The Kalamazoo home she rents is for sale.

She needs to find an apartment quickly.

But for two months, she said she’s been denied because rental properties don’t want a “pit bull” on site even though she’s a registered therapy dog.

“It has her badge number and everything and it has her vest and they don’t really look into it, kind of brush it off,” said Abigail.

She said her encounter at Sage Terrace Apartments in Kalamazoo, where signs clearly state that pets are welcome, was the most recent frustration.

Abigail said there she was told that Atheena wasn’t a “welcome breed” when she went in to talk to a staff member during an appointment to fill out an application.

She said she told the staff member,” ‘I have a dog for an emotional support animal’. She kind of stopped and asked me what kind of dog it was. I said, ‘She`s an American Staffordshire Terrier’, and she said, ‘Oh, another name for a pit bull’.”

Abigail said the woman continued to discourage her from renting.

“She’s like, ‘OK, I don’t think our insurance allows that. They’re not supposed to be on the property’. She went and looked that up and she just kind of got an attitude from there I feel like,” said Abigail.

Abigail said calls to the regional manager to talk about the issue went unanswered.

Atheena’s registration badge states that under law, “Landlords are required to make reasonable accommodation (a change in the rules) to permit a disabled handler to keep an ESA, even when a landlord’s policy explicitly prohibits pets.”

It cites the  Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

We went to a staff member in the office at the Sage Terrace complex looking for answers.

She said, “I am not allowed to say anything. Everything has to go through Dennis who is my regional.”

However, Dennis Bowman wasn’t on site.

The staff member passed on a message to him and he called us, conducting an interview by phone.

Dennis Bowman, who serves as the regional manager for Group Five Management, said the complex does indeed allow appropriately registered emotional therapy animals.

Bowman said, “As long as it is an emotional support dog, yes, we will allow them. We will just need the paperwork to establish that.”

He went on to say, “We would require a copy and documentation and we’re all set. She would have to be approved on her own terms of residency. Then, the dog policy would come into play.”

Bowman was able to talk to Abigail after we contacted him, offering her the opportunity to again go to the office and fill out an application.

He said for some reason, Abigail didn’t have the correct number for his regional office.

Bowman said the numbers were transposed. Abigail said she will likely fill out the application Thursday.

Bowman said if she meets other residency qualifications, and Atheena’s paperwork is correct, she could very well have an apartment there in the future regardless of her dog’s breed.

As for other complexes who may be ignoring registered therapy animals, Abigail said it’s something that those with physical or mental challenges can’t live without.

“A lot of people don’t even look at it. They don’t really care,” said Abigail. “I felt hurt by it. I can’t get rid of her.”

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25 comments

  • K.H.

    I can promise you that "Group 5 Management" is not the manager of this complex, because I live there. And this same woman that was on your newscast has illegally stated multiple things to me during my residency. I was just at Housing Resources to figure out what to do with their illegal behavior. You should contact the local MSHDA housing in Kalamazoo to find out where they send their rent payments to. The manager lives on site at their other housing complex. They are scamming you as they scammed me when I moved in. They have me an entirely different lease agreement than the one they presented to me later on. You should investigate the so-called "Group 5 Management" by contacting MSHDA with who they pay the rent for at Peppertree Apartments, which they ALSO own. http://www.karha.com/events/item/18-knhs-mshda-fa

    • A. T.

      One…this story is about service animals…not this and two…this story has to do with Sage Terrace Apartments not Peppertree, so I am not sure why you commented on this!!!!

  • LT

    Your article is horribly under researched and this woman is gravely wrong. Her registration doesn’t mean anything because she simply paid money on a scam site to get an ID card that legally, by federal law and any law, doesn’t mean anything. She certainly doesn’t need a vest for an ESA who does not have public access rights nor is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act. That property was right to deny her based on that paperwork because it’s fraudulent documentation. She’d need a note from a medical professional to actually have an ESA. Also, a therapy dog is a dog who visits hospitals and nursing homes. A service dog is a dog individually trained to mitigate a handlers disability through physical tasks… Providing emotional support or comfort is NOT a task and dogs who solely do such are not considered service dogs. Check your facts before spewing this information to the public.

  • Lisa

    First off, service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals are NOT interchangeable terms. If she is truly an emotional support animal, that badge you so willingly flash is USELESS. The NSAR IS A SCAM, ALONG WITH ALL OTHER "CERTIFYING" AND "REGISTRY" WEBSITES. There is NO national registry for any ESA or Service Dog. Please throw it away. Second, an apartment CAN deny you housing based on breed if it does NOT make for reasonable accommodation. (i.e. carrying an insurance policy where there was none before) Third, an emotional support animal needs a valid prescription from a mental health professional stating that you have been under their care for over a year, that you have a disability that benefits from having a dog, and in that prescription is required to have the PSYCHIATRIST'S (not therapist) license number as well. I can't reiterate it enough…. Stop flashing these badges everywhere. They hold no weight, and they make access for legitimate service dog teams difficult, because businesses everywhere expect all teams to have them, when they're not required. Also, throw away the vest, she doesn't need it as ESA's do NOT have public access rights. NONE. In fact, ESA's are not even recognized as service animals by the ADA. Please read up on ESA law before you go crying that you have been discriminated against. You have made yourself look like a fool in front of the entire Service Dog community with this foolishness. There are so many glaring errors in what you say, that I just can't even continue. Garbage like this is what gives Service animals, and legitimate ESA's a bad name. I understand the need for an ESA, don't get me wrong. I'm not completely heartless, but when a person cries about discrimination when they don't know the laws themselves, they embarrass themselves, and bring humiliation to those with legitimate paperwork for an ESA. Best of luck madam, and again, take heed of what I said.

    • Sammye

      Finally someone tells them. Wow… Your reporter made you guys look SUPER un-credible, and ignorant. Yay for the media! Do. Your. Research.

  • Miki

    This is quite possibly the worst piece of reporting I have ever seen. Neither this woman nor the reporters have any idea what they are talking about. You're embarrassing yourselves.

  • service dog handler

    http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

    Seriously research before spreading this crap over the news. She has NO RIGHTS. A service dog is individually trained a minimum of 1 task to mitigate a disability. A therapy dog is trained to behave well and go cheer people up in hospitals and nursing homes. an ESA is a pet that a doctor writes a note saying a person needs.
    So no doctors not not an ESA. There is NO certification. And the fact that you have an ad at the bottom for a fake service dog registry pisses me off even more.
    Spreading these lies on the news, you've totally did a disservice to all service dog handlers and disabled people.

  • Canis Iratus

    Wow, these fake-service-animal stories are getting to be a cliché. I'd feel bad for the young reporters who are assigned to cover them, except for the fact that they always come down on the side of the scamming pet owner and end up doing a disservice to ALL their viewer.

    But I can't be too upset – these stories are always great fodder for my awesome service animal scammer website!
    http://dogswherethereshouldntbedogs.tumblr.com/

  • Kelley, SD Owner

    As a service dog partner, (and trainer), I find it appalling that this story is full of inaccuracies. No service dog was denied, as you state, because this is not a service dog. This is an ESA (Emotional Support Animal), and the above commentors have stated the law very well so I won't repeat the same info. This woman is not allowed public access with her ESA, so I'm not sure why else she would be placing a vest on this dog. ESA's have some housing rights, but no public access at all. The certification she states she has is illegal as well, since there are no certifications for service dogs, therapy dogs, or emotional support animals.

    Please take the time to educate yourselves on the law of Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals. We have a hard enough time being in public with many illegal 'service dogs' thanks to terrible reporting and other peoples misinformation. Please consider running a piece clearing up all of the misinformation you stated in this story. The only way to stop people from using fake service dogs in our community is to clear it up your errors. Thank you!

    • Lynne

      these vests are available on line for a small price. I have a family member that purchased the "necessary" paperwork and coat in order to fly her dog free, access restaurants, and avoid the otherwise restricted areas of animals. I hope this fraud is confronted soon.

    • lch

      Just a few clarifications… 1. the dog never has the rights, the rights of access belong to the disabled person partnered with a trained service dog. 2. Certifications are not "illegal" if the person has the a disability and the dog is trained to mitigate the disability. It is only illegal if someone uses the certification to obtain goods or services for free that they would normally have to pay for. 3. Therapy dogs often do have certifications either by one of the TDI's, Delta Society or the organization the team visits (ie our local hospital has their own therapy dog program and certifies the dogs in the program).

  • Lynne

    There are people abusing the service dog program in order to gain access to areas that otherwise were not available to them. If this dog was trained and released to her from a certified service dog group, then fine but if she bought the coat, paperwork and number on line in order to access areas, she should not be allowed to circumvent the system.

  • cissy stamm

    The reporter covering this story needs to do her research. This story is filled with inaccuracies as noted in prior comments. Stories like these are very, very destructive to people with disabilities who use service dogs. While I'm sure it was not your intention to cover this story in a way that is so harmful to us, I think a correction and apology is in order. I don't know what your state laws are covering emotional support animals in housing, but federal HUD regulations require reasonable accommodation in no pets housing for both service dogs and emotional support dogs. It is important for the public to understand that there is a difference between emotional support dogs and service dogs and that no special licensing, registration or certification is required for either.

  • Cynthia Eliason

    Well, it's Fox news, after all. Does anyone expect any fact-checking or accuracy from Fox? Don't be silly, they don't do that.

  • Linda

    Wow, NSAR?? That is one of the biggest service dog ID scam sites out there. "Having a badge, an ID number, and a vest" from NSAR means this woman went online and knew how to use her credit card. With those things, she is fraudulently passing her dog off as a service dog.
    An emotional support animal, which is what she describes her dog as, is not a service dog as specifically stated in the ADA. She needs documentation from her doctor, not a phony ID.
    She needs to do a lot of research and get her facts straight before running to the media. Shame on the news for taking on this story as well, ridden with misinformation.
    How could someone possibly know what they're talking about when they don't even know the difference between service, emotional support, and therapy?

    • Not a Dog Person

      I work in retail and I was told by management that if a person walks in with an animal it is ILLEGAL for me to ask if it is a registered service dog. I can't ask to see a license, badge, papers, or even just ask. So some Paris Hilton wannabe comes in the other day with a toy dog in her purse and I can't say jack! I agree something has to be done

      • Linda

        That's not true! You CAN ask. By law, business can ask "Is that a service animal?" and "What tasks is the dog trained to do?" You cannot ask for documentation, but if the handler refuses to answer those questions or cannot answer them correctly, you do not have to allow the dog. An example of an 'incorrect' answer to the second question would be "He provides comfort, or makes me happy, or calms me down." Those all describe an emotional support animal, which are simply pets and do not have public access.
        You can also have the dog removed if they are being disruptive by barking, eliminating in the shop, or otherwise not being under control at all times.
        These are not things the handler can argue against because they are spelled out right in the ADA. Business owners do have rights as well. It's not a free-for-all for service dog handlers. They still have to obey the law.

      • lch

        You should tell your boss, a better question to ask is, "Is that your pet?" A person with a legitimate service dog will answer, "No, it's a service dog." A person who is trying to smuggle in fifi and wasn't prepared for the question will hem and haw. At that point you can let them know you don't allow pets in the store.

  • GEB

    Very bad fact checking in the reporting of this story. This story needs to be rebroadcast with the ACCURATE information included.

  • Cole

    Unfortunately this woman is horribly misinformed.
    1) Emotional therapy dog. Emotional support animals, therapy dogs, and service dogs are 3 very different, distinct things.
    2) Her "ID" card, called a badge, is absolutely worthless in the eyes of the law. That card is from a scam website, that will sell those cards to anyone with a credit card. That card means nothing and proves she wasted money on a scam website.
    3) Even with a prescription from a doctor, the apartment is allowed to deny her housing if they can prove their insurance for example will go up by a huge amount – then the animal is no longer a reasonable accommodation.

    This woman keeps referencing her ID badge and vest. What she needs to do is throw that fake shit away and get a prescription from a medical doctor for her emotional support animal.

    I hope this woman reads these comments, starts calling her dog by the correct term of ESA (I'm very disturbed by her lack of knowledge in this area), and get a doctor's prescription for the dog. Oh, and throw her scam badge and vest away, Her dog is NOT a service dog, and impersonating it as such is a misdemeanor crime.


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