by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
It's a fight between a Charlotte homeowners’ association and a couple with dogs.
The HOA said no pets. The couple said the dogs aren't pets; they're service dogs. They want to keep the animals.
Michelle Rounds said she needs her dog, Gryphynn.
"He's a lifeline," she said. "An absolute lifeline."
Michelle Rounds spent 10 years in the Air Force. She said it left her with lasting emotional problems. That's where Gryphynn comes in. Michelle showed Action 9 a letter, from a VA doctor, saying it's "...medically necessary (she) ... have her service dog."
Her husband, Scott, said he needs a service animal too: Gypsy.
Recently, their neighborhood, Windsor Grove, started saying no to pets.
"These dogs are not pets," Michelle Rounds said. "They are tools. They are medical tools."
The HOA told the Roundses to get rid of the dogs or move.
"It's really emotionally hard because this is our home. This is where we've chosen to live," Scott Rounds said.
So Action 9 looked up the law. It states your neighborhood can ban pets, but it can't ban service dogs. You still need to show proof you need the animal and the animal has to behave or you may lose your rights.
Julia Sain is the executive director of Disability Rights and Resources in Charlotte, and she said, remember, no HOA or apartment rule trumps federal disability law.
"This is civil rights legislation. Let me be clear about that. This is not just a good idea, "she said.
Federal housing investigators tell Action 9 they're looking into the Rounds' case. In the meantime, Action 9 asked the HOA president if the HOA would take another look at their situation. She said yes, just have the Roundses provide original documents, proving they need the dogs.
At last check, the Roundses weren't sure they wanted to.
This issue comes up often, and not just about service animals. People with disabilities have concerns with their neighborhoods (HOAs or apartment complexes) regarding swimming pool access, wheelchair ramps, parking spaces, etc.
If you have a question about your rights, go to http://www.disability-rights.org and tell Action 9 about it. Go to WSOC's Facebook page and comment on the story.