Woman battling HOA over fence for her support dog
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV) — A fence requested by a dog owner is causing controversy with an Homeowners Association (HOA) in St. Louis County.
Dorothy Hiatt wants an above-ground fence around her yard at the Villas at Lindbergh Place so her dog Blake can exercise and play, but the community indentures do not allow for above-ground fences.
Hiatt acquired Blake after the death of her husband. She says the animal was prescribed by her therapist and is considered an emotional support animal.
“He’s my best bud,” said Hiatt.
After her request to build a fence behind her home and along her side yard was denied, Hiatt hired attorney Jason Schmidt.
“It is discrimination for the board to deny her reasonable request, permission to install a fence at her own expense,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said Hiatt suffers from both a physical and emotional disability, which Blake helps her cope with.
Hiatt field a complaint with HUD (Housing and Urban Development) but it was dismissed. A second complaint has been refiled that includes documentation of her physical disability from a physician. There’s been no determination in the second case.
HUD investigated more than 1,200 assistance animal related complaints last year.
The HOA board said the rules are straightforward.
“Our indentures make very clear no above ground fences are allowed,” said board member Vicki Washington.
The HOA board hasn’t totally denied Hiatt’s request.
“Initially we prescribed an area, (to construct a fence) she didn’t like that,” Washington said. “We went back to her and proposed an alternative, enlarging the area in question. She rejected.”
Hiatt said the HOA would only allow her to construct a fence in her backyard, which is muddy because of poor drainage.
“If my backyard was useable I would have gone with that to start with,” she said.
Instead, Hiatt wants to build a fence on a portion of her lot that’s visible from the street.
“These are volunteer board members doing their jobs on behalf of these communities, so it’s unfortunate it’s come to this,” said HOA. representative Stephen Davis.
“We have been really reasonable with Ms. Hiatt and attempted to be responsive to her concerns. We’re not sure why we aren’t making more progress,” Washington added.
The battle has the potential to cost Hiatt and HOA. thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Hiatt plans to continue fighting the denial because she believes she should be allowed to build a fence on her property for her dog.
The H.O.A has offered her the opportunity to install a below ground electrical fence, but Hiatt says that wouldn’t keep other dogs off her property.
According to the HOA that concern shouldn’t be an issue because the development requires all animals to be on a leash.
Hiatt’s attorney told News 4 allowing for an underground fence is not an accommodation for Hiatt’s disability.