Woodbury Gardens to pay pet lawsuit damages

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A Woodbury apartment complex has agreed to pay $58,750 in damages for refusing to let an elderly tenant suffering from depression, anxiety and a variety of physical ailments keep her pet schnauzer in her final days.

Sandra Biegel, 74, died just a few weeks after she was forced to give up the dog under threat of eviction from the Woodbury Gardens apartments in 2007. The settlement was announced Friday by the office of U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Loretta Lynch, which sued on behalf of widower Jack Biegel.

The government claimed in the lawsuit that federal fair-housing laws require residential property owners to make "reasonable accommodations" to people with disabilities. Doctors for Biegel, who suffered from cirrhosis, diabetes, and loss of vision and hearing, said she needed a "comfort animal" to cope with her disabilities, the lawsuit said.

In addition to forcing Biegel to give up the dog by trying to evict her in court from the 214-unit senior citizens' complex, Woodbury Gardens after her death insisted that her husband pay legal fees and fines, the suit alleged.

In addition to the damages, Woodbury Gardens has agreed to an injunction that requires it to report any future denials of a request for a comfort animal to the U.S. attorney, and to give its staff training about the issue, the government said.

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