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Ajit Bhogaita v. Altamonte Heights Condominium Assn.

January 3, 2012

AJIT BHOGAITA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ALTAMONTE HEIGHTS CONDOMINIUM ASSN., INC., DEFENDANT.



ORDER

This cause comes before the Court on a motion to dismiss (Doc. 15) filed by Defendant, Altamonte Heights Condominium Association, Inc. ("AHCA"); and the Response (Doc. 16) filed by Plaintiff Ajit Bhogaita ("Bhogaita").

I. Background

This case arises out of Defendant's alleged failure to provide reasonable accommodation under the federal and Florida Fair Housing Acts. 42 U.S.C. § 3604; FLA. STAT. § 760.23 ("FHA"). Bhogaita is a veteran of the United States Air Force who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting in "chronic anxiety" and depression. (Doc. 1, ¶ 5). At all relevant times Bhogaita lived in a condominium unit operated by Defendant AHCA which had a policy that residents not keep animals over twenty-five pounds. On May 4, 2010, AHCA sent a notice to Bhogaita, pursuant to this policy, which demanded he remove his pet dog, "Kane." Bhogaita responded on May 7, 2010, by sending a note from his "treating medical professional, 'Dr. Li,' " which stated, inter alia, [d]ue to mental illness, [Bhogaita] has certain limitations regarding social interaction and coping with stress and anxiety. In order to help alleviate these difficulties, and to enhance his ability to live independently and to fully use and enjoy the dwelling unit, I am prescribing an emotional support animal that will assist [Bhogaita] in coping with his disability. (Doc. 1, ¶ 8). Another note, also written by Dr. Li, was sent to AHCA a few days later which added, "I am prescribing an emotional support animal that will assist [Bhogaita] in coping with his disability, specifically his dog, Kane. [Bhogaita] has therapeutic relationship with this specific dog, Kane. As an emotional support animal, Kane serves to ameliorate otherwise difficult to manage day to day psychiatric symptoms in [Bhogaita]." (Doc. 1, ¶ 9).

On July 13, 2010, AHCA requested the following additional information,

1. What is the exact nature of your impairment? How does it substantially limit a major life activity?

2. How long have you been receiving treatment for this specific impairment?

3. How many sessions have you had with Dr. Li?

4. What specific training has your dog received?

5. Why does it require a dog over 25 pounds to afford you an equal opportunity to use and enjoy your dwelling?

(Doc. 1 at 3; Doc. 15-1 at 2).*fn1 On July 27, 2010 Bhogaita responded by providing a third letter from Dr. Li which stated,

[Bhogaita] has certain limitations regarding social interaction and coping with stress and anxiety. This limits his ability to work directly with other people, a major life activity . . . He is able to work with the assistance of his emotional support animal.

Otherwise his social interactions would be so overwhelming that he would be unable to perform work of any kind. (Doc. 1 at 3). After receiving this letter, AHCA sent a second request to Bhogaita on August 17, 2010, which stated, in relevant part,

1. Please list each individual disability that you feel your pet is required for in order for you to offset the effects of those individual disabilities. Originally you claimed one disability, not you are claiming another disability. Please list all related disabilities.*fn2

2. Please provide documentation from a medical professional(s) that clearly supports that you have any of the disabilities noted above, disabilities that substantially limit a major life activity, and that you are in need of a trained "support animal" that exceeds the 25 pound weight limit for that disability. Please include contact physician information as well. (Note: You have already provided documentation regarding your claim related to mental health issues; however, your psychiatrist has not indicated that you need an ...


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