Broward News

Broward County Gets to Foot the Bill for Federal Lawsuit Over a Chihuahua

Here are your tax dollars at work: The Broward County Civil Rights Division filed a federal lawsuit last week on behalf of a 68-year-old Deerfield Beach woman who says her Chihuahua is prescribed to her by a doctor for emotional support.

In what Phyllis Schleifer's attorney calls a "prescription pet lawsuit," the county is suing her condo association, Ventnor "H" Condo Association, for not allowing her three-pound Chihuahua named Sweetie to live in the condo with her.

The condo association has a no-pet policy, but Schleifer decided to bring the dog in anyway as an "emotional service animal."

Regardless of the condo's rules not allowing pets, Schleifer insists she's the victim in the situation -- hence the lawsuit.

She says the dog helps her cope with depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, and the condo association and residents haven't made it any better.

First, a notice was posted on her complex's bulletin board, alerting residents that she had the dog.

It said the dog was barking and disturbing residents, and the condo owners were geared up to fight a lawsuit if Schleifer wanted to try.

Then, Schleifer alleges she was pushed down the stairs and got a "fuck you" from neighbors -- both of which were conspicuously left out of the lawsuit -- all of which "shame, humiliate, and intimidated" Schleifer.

According to the condo association's lawyer, Patrick Murphy, Schleifer has dropped several excuses to keep the dog, with "prescription pet" being the most recent.

First, Murphy says, Schleifer originally told the association that she had back problems and that a doctor told her the dog would help with her balance.

Then she said she needed the dog because she was "depressed" before finally bringing up that it was for an "emotional disability."

Schleifer's complaint to the county finally got through on her third attempt, after being denied the first time and then losing her appeal.

But the Broward County Commissioners approved the lawsuit last week, indicating a likely legal tab of $15,000 to $50,000.

Click here to read through the entire lawsuit filed by the county on behalf of Schleifer.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley