Legislators consider relaxing housing standards for therapy pets

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on February 8, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 8 at 6:43 PM

Air Force veteran Brandon Gauvreau suffered a service-ending injury without ever stepping onto a battlefield.

"When I initially had the stroke I was in a coma for about two months," said Gauvreau.

Five years later, the 24-year-old vet is paralyzed down his left side of his body. He became depressed and doctors diagnosed him with PTSD.

Then last year, his yellow lab Huck came into his life.

"Whenever I have PTSD triggers or depression, Huck just instinctively knows to come near me and lay his head on my lap and just stare at me," said Gauvreau.

Huck knows a lot of commands but he is not a certified trained service dog. Under state law, Gauvreau could be denied housing anywhere pets aren't allowed.

The Human Rights Commission believes that law needs to change. Sharon Ortiz, the executive director, believes any disabled person with a therapy or companion pet and a note from a doctor or mental health provider should be protected from discrimination.

"A veteran with PTSD and a therapy dog could be denied housing when it comes to Washington law because the animal isn't trained to do something specific," Ortiz said.

The Washington Landlord Association is not against changing the law, but says landlords should be allowed to ask for a pet deposit as protection against property damage.

The group also says the definition of "service animals" is too vague.

"There was recently publicity in the papers about an individual with a snake around his neck wanting to rent a unit as a service animal," said Tim Seth, president of the WLA. "We think this makes it ludicrous."

Proponents argue relaxing the training requirement for service animals when it comes to housing would bring state law in line with federal law.

The WLA says pet owners already have choices. 40 percent of the rental properties in the state currently allow pets.

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