Veteran finds himself in a real dogfight
A veteran from the war in the Persian Gulf is disputing a fine levied by the Fox Point at Redstone Association. Snyderville Basin resident Tom Burton lives in a condo at Kimball Junction with his emotional support dog.
Burton said his military tour in the Middle East left him with post-traumatic stress disorder, adding that his Labradoodle is "an assisted living device, like a wheelchair."
"According to my doctor, I have a disability that I’m living with and this is something I’m probably going to be dealing with for the rest of my life," Burton said. "My doctor from the Department of Veterans Affairs has prescribed the animal to me I’m a combat veteran who has a problem and I need help so I can enjoy life like everyone else."
But the homeowners association where he lives has insisted he pay a fee to keep his emotional support animal at his home, which is against the law, Burton said.
"An emotional support animal is not a pet and it is illegal to require an individual with a service animal to pay extra. It would be like somebody paying extra for a wheelchair," he said.
The veteran said he plans to file a complaint Thursday with the state Antidiscrimination and Labor Division accusing the Fox Point at Redstone Association of failing to accommodate his combat-related disability. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has also heard his complaint.
"It’s pure discrimination," Burton said. "They can’t just break the law. There are federal and state laws that protect me."
Letters from his doctor that document his medical condition and need for an emotional support animal have been provided to the manager of the condominiums in accordance with the law, he said.
But Burton said he refuses to provide his private medical information to members of the Fox Point at Redstone Association Board of Trustees.
"They can ask for it, but they can’t require it. If I say no, that’s the end of it," he said. "The board members are my neighbors. They are people who I have to see. They are people who live around me and they are ready to discriminate already. So do I trust them to keep my medical information private? No, I don’t."
But Fox Point property manager Derek Peterson insisted that Burton, who rents his unit, must pay a $150 fee to house the emotional support dog in his condo.
"This is uniformly enforced. So he may feel like he’s being discriminated against or picked on, but we’re picking on everybody," Peterson said.
Peterson said he is also a disabled military veteran who served in Iraq about five years ago.
"I’m trying to support [Burton] but I can’t waive anything because of his situation, just like I can’t waive it for anyone else in a similar situation," he said. "We’ve got some pretty strict pet rules and there is some pretty specific reasoning behind that, so we are asking for quite a lot of info."
Burton must pay the fee and provide proof of liability insurance to the association in order to keep the support animal at his home, Peterson explained.
"We just want to get all the paperwork filled out correctly and then everyone will be fine with it," Peterson said. "He has to follow all of our original rules."
Burton must release his medical information to board members before they can determine whether to allow his emotional support animal at the complex, Peterson said.
"Our attorney is concerned that by issuing the letter to me and then not letting anybody else look at it, that it doesn’t quite fulfill some of the statute requirements," he added.
However, Burton countered that forcing him to release the information to the homeowners association is against the law.
"I have already provided that specific information to Derek Peterson," Burton said. "I don’t believe that I should have to share that with the entire community."
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