APRIL 12, 2012
In a bizarre case that could set all sorts of dangerous legal precedents, a state is embroiled in a private dispute involving a depressed artist, a dog and a condominium association.
It’s all in the name of human rights, according to the Illinois state agency that filed a lawsuit this week against a condo association for banning a man’s poodle from the compound. The man claims the poodle ban has caused him to suffer “acute depression and anguish” and has slashed his productivity and caused him to gain 40 pounds.
So public officials have volunteered taxpayers to help settle the matter, or at least finance the court spat. This week the Illinois Department of Human Rights sued the 3150 Condominium Association in Chicago’s Cook County Court on behalf of the maligned artist, Nio Tavlos.
The complaint reads like a comic script, though it’s an official court document authored by the legal department of a public agency. It claims that “Mr. Tavlos has been clinically diagnosed with the mental disability dysthymia, a form of depression.” This so-called disability is “chronic” and “substantial,” and has led to a lack of energy, lack of motivation and low productivity, the complaint further says.
Here is where the dog comes in. Tavlos splits his time between New Mexico and Chicago. When he moved to Chicago he had two miniature party poodles living in his New Mexico pad (one has since died of pancreatic cancer). The dogs had a therapeutic effect on his “dysthymia,” the state says, and his mood is “more stable and less dark.” He was also more productive when his four-legged friends were around.
Tavlos’ Chicago condo prohibits pets, a fact he was well aware of when he moved there years ago. However, in 2008 he filed a discrimination complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights alleging that his “service animals” were not permitted by the condo association in violation of state law. Under this theory, the artist claimed to have a disability that requires a service animal.
The state agency bought it, determining that the condo association violated a provision of the Illinois Human Rights Act that says it’s unlawful to refuse to make a “reasonable accommodation” in rules to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. “As a result of defendant’s actions, Mr. Tavlos suffered irreparable loss, humiliation, embarrassment, emotional distress, loss of housing opportunity, and deprivation of his housing rights,” the agency says in its lawsuit.
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