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Denise Cox with her pit bull called Kylee.

Cox v East Bay and Hastings Mutual

#W16-71 | Location: Fenton | Court Level: Federal | Settlement: $40,000, Plus changes in policies

Categories: Mental / Emotional Disability, Other
Tags: Breed Restrictions, Dog, Emotional Support Animal, Eviction, Mobile Home, Pit Bull, Reasonable Accommodation, Service Animal, Service Dog

Denise Cox and her mother accepted $40,000 to settle their case against Hastings Mutual Insurance Company and East Bay Manufactured Home Community. Citing insurance company breed restrictions, the property refused to allow her to keep her emotional support animal, a pit bull called Kylee. Ms. Cox lived on the property with Kylee for two years without incident.

Ms. Gooding contacted the Fair Housing Center on July 13, 2016, to report that she had been given an ultimatum by East Bay – get rid of Ms. Cox’s emotional support animal or be evicted. According to Ms. Gooding, when she bought their home in May 2015, Ms. Cox’s animal, a pit bull called Kylee, had been approved to live at the property as a reasonable accommodation of her disability. Then on June 7, 2016, Ms. Gooding and Ms. Cox were served with a notice that they had to leave unless the dog was removed. To avoid losing their home, the family made the hard choice to separate Kylee from Ms. Cox. Not only were they forced to board the dog for $40 a day, but Ms. Cox experienced significant emotional distress during this time and needed additional medical care.

FHC staff took the case and advocated on behalf of Ms. Cox. HUD guidelines require owners and insurers to evaluate each emotional support animal on a case-by-case basis. Fair Housing staff then asked East Bay to verify their insurance company’s policy on animal breed and reasonable accommodation requests. The FHC reminded East Bay that an emotional support animal is not a pet, and that a housing or insurance provider may not have blanket bans on emotional support animals.  When East Bay denied multiple requests to remove the blanket ban on pit bulls as a reasonable accommodation of Ms. Cox’s disability, the case was referred to FHC Cooperating Attorney Steve Tomkowiak.

Mr. Tomkowiak filed the case in Federal Court and it was settled in November, 2016. As part of the negotiations, Ms. Cox was given permission to bring the support animal home in mid-October. The case officially settled in November, for $40,000. The settlement included included changes in policies by both East Bay Manufactured Home Community and Hastings Mutual Insurance Company. Hasting Mutual agreed to modify its underwriting rules relating to its animal policies and accommodation requests, and undertake staff training regarding assistance animals. East Bay agreed to modify its community rules and regulations regarding requests for emotional support animals. Hastings Mutual Company has over 900 agencies servicing Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

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