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Resident Status Takes Bite Out of Fight to Keep Therapy Dog

8:59 AM, Jan 11, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Lisa Moccio loves her therapy dog "Toot."

She has had him a year and he's always by her wheelchair. "He's like my child," she said.

But this week she had to put him in a foster home at No More Homeless Pets, she said, until she can produce proof to her landlord that Toot is medically necessary. 

"The paperwork we have here is not enough and Toot is 3 lbs. over the weight limit and they're not allowing him to stay," she said.

Moccio lives in the Faith Building in the Brentwood Park community. She and Toot moved there from Alabama to live with her mother. The management, responding to complaints from other tenants about the dog, gave Moccio until Jan. 9 to prove Toot is medically necessary.

"They are saying the credentials do not meet the requirements," said Moccio.

She has a letter from a dog obedience school which says Toot is good therapy and a prescription from her doctor for service dog training for seizures, but neither document uses the words, "medically necessary."

Dianne Wiles, a spokesman for No More Homeless Pets, is working with Moccio so she can keep her service dog. "Any dog that assists a person with disabilities is a service dog," said Wiles.

The management of the apartment complex said there is no ultimatum for Toot to leave, but Moccio must provide proof that the dog is "medically necessary."

"We need sufficient documents to that effect," said Jayne Hoover, senior property manager, who said Moccio has not presented paperwork to that effect.

Hoover said in the process of reviewing the case, she discovered a bigger problem: Moccio is not a legal resident of the complex. "She is currently not a resident; she has requested to be put on her mother's lease, but she is not on the lease," said Hoover.

She said the apartment's management is in the process of approving the request but it has not been finalized.

Moccio plans to talk with a Jacksonville Area Legal Aid attorney to see if she has a right to fight.

In the meantime, the apartment complex is giving her mother a "seven-day notice to cure," which means if she wants to remain a resident, Moccio will have to move out.

Toot remains in foster care. 

First Coast News

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