Service dog may get Iraq vet booted from apartment

Perhaps there’s another side to the story — the one that’s being told doesn’t make a lot of sense — but an East Grand Forks, Minnesota, landlord is declining to say why he’s kicking an Iraq war vet out of an apartment.

Valley News Live reports that Jessie Johnson’s service dog is the issue. Johnson, an ex-Marine, suffered a traumatic brain injury during his deployment and now suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But even though he’s only been given a few days to get out, he says getting rid of the dog isn’t an option.

“The dog is a comfort to me, she helps me out even for being nine-weeks-old,” Johnson told Valley News Live. “At night-time when she sleeps in the bed with me, if I start having nightmares or sweat naps I wake up to her start licking my face.”

The law provides for a service dog in housing, apparently, although the management company says it will pursue the issue in court, at which time we’ll be able to hear another side of the story.

In an earlier story, Valley News Live played a recording of a verbal eviction order from the landlord.

“Guess what?” said apartment owner Larry Stauss. “I’m going to give you a three day eviction, I’m going to go to court and I’ll win.”

“So, you’re going evict me for having a service animal?” asked Johnson.

“I’m evicting you, period,” replied Stauss.

  • Robert Moffitt

    As someone who lived across the street from a belligerent, erratic veteran, I would like to hear the landlord’s side of the story.
    It’s not that my wife and I didn’t feel sorry for the guy — we’re both vets ourselves — but when you are afraid to go out into your own front yard for fear of setting him off, something had to give. He’s now living somewhere else, but still owns the house.
    I love all dogs, especially service dogs. Let’s hope all involved come out ahead in this unpleasant situation. The dog, too.

  • I know training for service dogs starts essentially within days of birth, but how much training can you get done in nine weeks?

  • Jerry

    It sounds like the dog was not a service dog but rather an Emotional Support Animal. The difference is service animals are highly trained and are legally allowed everywhere while ESAs are basically calming pets and not particularly regulated. The New Yorker did an article on it last week

  • Service Dog User

    The puppy is NOT a service dog! A nine-week-old cannot be a service dog, as it is not old enough to be trained to do something that helps the person’s disability. Also, the disabled person must request the reasonable accommodation for a real service dog to live in their rental, with the landlord able to require a letter from the doctor stating that the person is disabled and requires the service dog. Even if this man qualifies to call his pet an emotional support animal (which is NOT a service dog), he still needed to request permission from the landlord and give them a letter from their doctor explaining that the pet will help them with their disability.

  • Virginia Herhold

    According to the ADA, a service dog must preform work or tasks to mitigate the handler’s disability / disabilities. Being a comfort is not a task, nor is licking. Can Do Canines is in the twin cities area, they train service dogs. Maybe they could help this guy train his prospect. But at 9 weeks old, the dog cannot work in public because it’s not even housebroken. This dog is in no way a Service Dog, not even one in training until it can work on public access. It is just a prospective service dog, and I would maybe say it might be an ESA, but again it’s not even housebroken.

    • Windchyme

      I beg to disagree that it can’t be a service dog in training. I start all my service dogs and those I work with as a private trainer the second they come home as just weaned puppies. I find it HIGHLY effective to expose the pup as soon as possible to the sights and sounds of public places (with care taken to respect the public places and extra care taken to avoid having the puppy infected with diseases. Of course the trainer must ensure that the puppy is not disruptive and prevent it from having accidents until it has learned to do so itself- this can be done quite easily. This puppy is well old enough to start having some careful, limited exposure to public places and it certainly belongs in the home.

      Different trainers and programs have different approaches to the public access training. Exposing a pup from the first is one of them and I have found it a very effective way to get really rock solid public access behavior throughout the dog’s lifetime.

  • Windchyme

    Jess…ALOT with training. I am a private service dog trainer in California and I start socializing in public the minute I get the weaned puppy. By the time they are able to go to dog classes at 4 months they already do all their basic obedience (maybe not with flashy precision of obedience competition but they do it) and often I have them doing one easier task- for the puppy it is all one big fun game. A good trainer can work miracles.

    BUT, in my state we have service dog in training laws which my dogs in training fall under. Also there is federal fair housing codes that say if the dog is of benefit to a medical condition (which he obviously has) just by being there (a cute puppy would certainly qualify for this) that the landlord has to allow it with proper documentation that it is needed, which it obviously is for the dog to be trained as a service dog.

    I am to go next weekend and pick up my new service dog in training for MY disabling condition via airplane. The pup will be just 8 weeks old. There is no way that the pup gets to fly as a service dog ( it is so obviously NOT fully trained) and service dogs in training aren’t accommodated under that airline’s rules. The puppy DOES qualify under the emotional support clause however. My dr who has been with me for years now had no problem signing a form for the puppy to be accepted under the emotional support rules. Just the presence of the puppy with stabilize and calm me for the flight and it WILL definitely be needed at the destination, my home, to be trained to assist me with tasks. No problem.