San Diego

Veteran's Lawsuit Claims Veterans Village of San Diego Made Him Get Rid of Support Dog

A U.S. Marine veteran has filed a lawsuit against Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) for allegedly forcing him to get rid of his dog, which he said was helping him cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Michael Roberts lives at the VVSD, a home for disabled veterans. On Jan. 11, Roberts adopted a young Great Dane, Arthur, from a rescue center. Per the lawsuit, Arthur served as his "emotional support dog." The VVSD allowed him to keep the dog in his room at the Veterans Village.

According to the documents, soon after Arthur moved into Roberts' room, "staff began having concerns" about the dog's behavior. Property managers said Arthur was not being kept on a leash, as required by rules at the Veterans Village.

Documents state that Arthur's adoption agreement given to Roberts by the rescue center included "warnings that the dog might have latent problems, including problems with its temperament."

One day, according to court documents, the dog began barking loudly at a staff member. Several residents and staff members reported the dog was "frightening them."

After several incidents with the dog, the VVSD told Roberts he needed to get rid of Arthur or move out of the housing complex. 

Instead, Roberts hired attorney Bryan Pease to fight the case, filing a lawsuit against the VVSD. In the meantime, Arthur has been placed in a foster home.

Pease said that while he understands there are rules, there should also be compassion for his client, who needs Arthur.

"That's what they do with all service and support animals at VVSD -- if there is any little reason they just yank the animal away and that's very devastating to people relying on their animals," Pease told NBC 7.

Court documents state Arthur was not trained as a service dog and that a note from Roberts' doctor recommended that a therapy dog "could help him in his recovery from PTSD and substance abuse" but was not a necessity for the veteran.

"[The doctor's note] acknowledges that Roberts told the doctor he wanted a 'therapy dog,' and that the doctor 'supports Mr. Roberts' aspiration and believes it would aid him in his recovery.'"

Pease said Arthur was not involved in any safety incidents during his time at VVSD.

"Arthur's never bit anyone. There's never been a safety incident but the fact that he is a larger animal," said Pease. "This particular staff member, maybe he's afraid of Arthur and just doesn't want him there because he's so large."

Court documents said Roberts had Arthur as his companion for less than two months, and while the court doesn't question his affection for the dog, "Arthur is not uniquely qualified to serve as Roberts' service animal."

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