by Robin Kemp

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced Friday that it has entered into an agreement with Sentinel Real Estate Inc., Tina Brooks, and John’s Creek, LLC, over allegations it denied accommodation for an emotional support and service animal.

“People with disabilities who need assistance animals to support them with daily activities should be allowed to keep these animals in their homes,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “A person who needs the continuous support of an emotional support animal should not have to face continuous obstacles to simply keep their pet at home. My office will continue to enforce the Fair Housing Act to combat this type of discrimination.”

The person who filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) requires continuous use of an emotional support animal because his mental disability limits his daily activities. He asked for a reasonable accommodation, but his request was delayed. Five months later, the respondents refused to renew his lease. His complaint was that they “violated the Fair Housing Act and caused him emotional distress.”

Under the agreement, the respondents must:

  • implement a reasonable accommodation policy on service/emotional support animals (with U.S. approval)
  • pay $35,000 to the person’s estate
  • train staff on the Fair Housing Act
  • submit periodic reports to the U.S. Attorney’s office on the agreement’s implementation.

This matter was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aileen Bell Hughes, Special Counsel, Civil Rights Unit, U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentinel’s website says it owns three properties in metro Atlanta.

The Clayton Crescent has asked the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District’s office to clarify the use of “service animal,” “emotional support animal,” and “pet” in this case. A service animal is trained to perform specific tasks for a person with a disability (like open doors or alert to seizures), while an emotional support animal is not trained to do such tasks (but offers comfort or relieves phobias). We will update when we hear back.

Learn more about service animals and the American Disabilities Act

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