CHICAGO (CBS) — They’re fighting to keep their service dogs. This after the Village of Westchester started fining a family for having too many pets on their property.
CBS 2’s Megan Hickey has more from Westchester Village Hall.
The village ordinance said you can’t have more than two dogs. But according to federal law, four of their dogs qualify as service animals.
They kept a watchful eye on Keri & John Pass. Three mini Australian Shepherd dogs are PTSD service dogs, recommended by a therapist after Keri’s best friend, pregnant nine months, was tragically shot and killed by her husband in 2012.
The fourth service dog is specifically trained to recognize symptoms of Keri’s heart condition. The other two are pets, the maximum number allowed by the Village of Westchester. After a neighbor down the street complained back in May, the village started leaving citations on their door.
When the couple appeared for a hearing, they said:
“They wouldn’t let me talk,” said John Pass.
A judgment issued Wednesday stated that the couple failed to provide proof that they are service animals and that they can perform certain special tasks. According to the ordinance, they can be fined $100 a day until they get rid of the surplus dogs.
“It would probably send my wife to the hospital. I don’t know how I would cope. I didn’t even know that I would need one,” Pass said.
CBS 2 looked into it and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the village can’t ask for proof and there is no requirement for formal documentation. The family can also have as many ADA services animals as necessary.
“My husband said I want to make sure, on the record, that you are going against state and federal law,” Keri Pass said.
A fact that CBS 2 brought to the attention of Westchester’s city manager. After CBS 2 involved, he spoke with the couple on the phone. He promised to arrange a meeting Monday to formally acknowledge that they are service dogs.
He said the village would wipe out all of the citations and let the couple keep their service dogs.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office also pointed the couple to those ADA guidelines. The city manager said he believed there was a misunderstanding.
UPDATE: Village of Westchester pet ordinance citations officially dropped against Keri & John Pass on Monday August 12.