Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A lawsuit says a woman's pets are a medical necessity

OLDSMAR — A disabled woman has sued her homeowners association for banning the pets on which she depends for emotional support.

Kathleen Klein, 68, suffers from a host of medical problems including fibromyalgia, a disorder that causes fatigue and depression. As part of her treatment, her doctor suggested she keep domestic animals — in her case, two dogs and a cat.

But the association, which sets the rules for Gull Aire Village mobile home park off Curlew Road, does not allow more than one pet per household. It said either the animals — or Klein and her husband — would have to go.

The association began fining Klein $100 a day — to its statutory maximum of $1,000 — for keeping the animals, said John Shahan, Klein's attorney.

Dr. Danny Fox, Klein's physician at Oldsmar Family Practice since 2003, wrote to the association after that ruling to defend his prescription.

Klein, he wrote, is alone 40 hours a week while her husband works, and her condition often keeps her from visiting with friends. The "emotional support animal companions" provide her companionship she would otherwise miss.

"The dogs and cat lie beside her, and petting them lowers her blood pressure and elevates her mood," Fox wrote. "They are not mere 'pets.' They are intended to be a permanent part of her treatment and support system, and she should not be separated from them."

The association, Shahan said, ignored Fox's medical opinion and continued the fine. Shahan said that represents a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act's protection for the disabled.

Klein's suit, filed late last year in federal court, asks for at least $75,000 in damages.

The association's attorney, Jeremy Rogers with Spector Gadon & Rosen, wrote in response to the suit that Klein failed to ask for an exception to the neighborhood rule before bringing the animals home.

Rogers would not comment except to say, "There are association rules, and we are within our right to enforce them."

The park's one-pet rule has been the subject of previous lawsuits. Daniel and Elaine Fellows, owners of Mistyblue and Precious, and Rick Mullins, owner of Bellagio and Chutney, sued the association in 2008 to save their dogs from eviction. Real estate agents, they said, did not disclose the rule before they moved in.

A county judge ruled against Mullins; that verdict has been appealed in circuit court, Shahan said. The Fellowses' suit remains open.

Shahan said Klein's case is different because her disabilities should allow her special accommodations.

"This mobile home park is not complying with a federal law," Shahan said. "They don't care. They don't even want to talk about it."

Contact Drew Harwell at or (727) 445-4170.

A lawsuit says a woman's pets are a medical necessity 01/19/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 7:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers


    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson Jenn Meale said Monday.

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  2. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?


    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late


    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.
  4. Florida concealed weapons permit holders exposed in computer hack


    More than 16,000 concealed weapons permit holders in Florida may have had their names accidently made public because of a data breach at the The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

  5. Editorial: Careless words unfit for a mayor


    Even his critics marvel at how well Bob Buckhorn has grown into the job since first being elected as Tampa's mayor in 2011. His grace in public and his knack for saying and doing the right things has reflected well on the city and bestowed civic pride in the mayor's office. That's why Buckhorn's cheap shot at the media …

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn fires a .50 caliber machine gun from a rigid hull inflatable boat during a Special Operations Capabilities Demonstration at the Tampa Convention Center last year. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]