Top state court will hear condo board dispute over emotional support dog
According to a New Jersey appellate court judge, a 70-pound black Labrador mix “may be a good dog that doesn’t bark, but those characteristics do not give defendants the right to carve out an exception” to a condo association’s “lawful and enforceable rules.” Image from Shutterstock.
For nearly five years, a 70-pound black Labrador mix named Luna has been at the center of a dispute that started in a Camden County, New Jersey, condominium complex in New Jersey and now sits before the state’s highest court.
Luna’s owners, one of which has a history of anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, characterize her as an emotional support animal. Their condo association, Player’s Place II, has a strict policy against dogs over 30 pounds and would not grant them an exemption.
The New Jersey Supreme Court now has been asked to decide whether the condo complex’s board must deem Luna to be a “reasonable accommodation” under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The statute prohibits discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics, including disability, and applies in employment, housing and places of public accommodation.
NJ.com reported on the ongoing case.
Talbot B. Kramer Jr., an attorney for Luna’s owners, who are only identified by their initials in court documents, told NJ.com that the New Jersey law closely follows federal discrimination laws but offers broader protections for people with disabilities.
He contended that their case is “about the needs of a person who had certain handicaps, who had a fix, and then had someone trying to take it away.”
In 2018, the couple adopted Luna and notified their condo board of her arrival. According to NJ.com, the board then denied their medical documentation and filed for a court order to bar Luna from the complex.
A judge, during a 2020 bench trial, allowed the couple to keep Luna but did not decide whether she was an emotional support animal. Appellate judges also did not make a final determination, NJ.com reports, leaving the issue up to the state supreme court.
“Luna may be a good dog that doesn’t bark, but those characteristics do not give defendants the right to carve out an exception to the association’s lawful and enforceable rules and regulations regarding pet ownership,” wrote New Jersey appellate court Judge Katie A. Gummer in a dissenting opinion in the case in March.
According to NJ.com, the New Jersey Supreme Court’s upcoming decision could help shift the culture around restrictions for emotional support animals. Similar disputes have arisen in recent years, including one that resulted in the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights reaching a $20,000 settlement with a cooperative association board that wouldn’t grant a tenant’s daughter permission to get an emotional support dog.