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Suit targets shelters that ban dogs of homeless

Two advocacy organizations say some shelters are discriminating against homeless people with service dogs.

According to the LA Times, the The Southern California Housing Rights Center and the Disability Rights Legal Center have filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

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The lawsuit alleges that emergency homeless shelters in L.A. routinely turn away homeless people. A woman that relies on her service dog to deal with seizures and another homeless woman with medical issues are co-plaintiffs.

According to the lawsuit, about 20 percent of L.A.'s homeless residents have a physical disability. More still have emotional or substance abuse issues, and while only two individuals are plaintiffs in the case, the suit alleges that many more use service animals either for physical assistance or emotional support.  Discriminating against those who depend on service animals, it continues, violates both the Americans With Disabilities Act and fair housing laws.

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"They are all supposed to take service animals," Shawna L. Parks, director of litigation for the Disability Rights Legal Center, told our colleague Jessica Garrison. "We are not talking about pets."

Some providers of services to the homeless say that animals -- even well-behaved service dogs -- are difficult to accommodate in the shelter environment, where they must be in close quarters with other people who may be frightened of or allergic to dogs.

Shawnine Mackay with her dog, Molly, who is trained to help her detect and cope with seizures. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.


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