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Owners of service dog accuse complex of bias

A couple battlesits condo association'sno-pet policy, saying Chloe is needed at home to maintain the wife's health.

By CHANDRA BROADWATER
Published June 23, 2006


WEEKI WACHEE - Dee Bordonaro wants her dog to come home.

The 62-year-old resident of the Greens at the Heather continues to fight the Weeki Wachee condo association over whether her 5-pound toy Shih Tzu, Chloe, can live with her there.

Since February, Bordonaro and her 64-year-old husband, Joe, have been trying to convince officials at the Greens that Chloe does not fit into its no-pet policy.

Their dog is for medical purposes, they say, not just for fun. Chloe is even a certified service dog.

About a month ago, the association did offer to let Chloe come home but just until October when the Bordonaros were expected to move into a new house.

They also asked the couple to drop the housing discrimination complaint the Bordonaros filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Dee Bordonaro says the association violated disability rights laws by keeping Chloe in exile. "I told them, very nicely, that my husband said, 'Shove it,' " Dee Bordonaro said Thursday. "They just want to shut me up."

Condo association board members said that they cannot comment on the situation because there is litigation. The group's attorney, Paul Nessler, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

The whole thing started last September when three doctors advised Bordonaro to get a pet. A neurologist, internist and therapist each said that an animal companion would help take her mind off her health problems. Along with MS, she has depression and diabetes.

So Bordonaro found Chloe.

Much to her surprise, the dog did help her feel better. Bordonaro stopped taking Xanax - she had taken four a day on top of the Prozac she takes for depression. Her debilitating MS attacks didn't happen as frequently.

Her moods also got better. She liked to get up and watch the fluffy white dog run around outside on her rope in the yard. Inside on the couch, Bordonaro would sit with Chloe for hours, loving every lick. But when faced with eviction from the condo or sending Chloe elsewhere, Bordonaro had to start visiting her small pet at the home of her daughter, Chris LaRocca, in Spring Hill.

When she can make it there, she sits on the couch to play with Chloe. It's just like at home. But these past few months have been hard. The MS attacks have kept Bordonaro in her pajamas most of the time.

Sometimes LaRocca drives Chloe over. The three begin a visit in the parking lot when Bordonaro climbs into the front passenger seat and shuts the door.

Along with the stress of trying to bring Chloe home, the Bordonaros have been faced with other concerns. They were supposed to move into their new, handicapped-accessible home for Dee in September.

But then the financial problems of Coral Bay Construction Co. surfaced. Now the Bordonaros pray they're able to eventually resell the $40,000 lot they bought in the Royal Highlands area.

In the meantime, the couple hope to find a house to rent - one where pets are allowed. They sold their condo at the Greens in anticipation of their new home and have been renting from the new owners.

"Disabled means more than being blind, or something more obvious," Dee Bordonaro said. "My stress level is over the top, and Joe, he's getting burnt out. We don't need this."

A version of this story appears in some regional editions of the Times.

[Last modified June 23, 2006, 00:32:09]


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